New York Times’ Ethan Bronner speaks out about “advocacy journalism”

Controversial New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner has spoken out at last on a topic he is expert in – advocacy journalism.

In response to an email from a Facebook user called Scott Mohn complaining that The New York Times had not covered the 15 July march in Jerusalem held by thousands of Israeli left-wing Zionists and a number of Palestinians from eastern occupied Jerusalem, Bronner wrote:

Mr. Mohn,
We have written quite a lot about the incipient movement but until it really takes off it would be advocacy journalism to highlight it too much. My job is to reflect, not to encourage. I am trying to do that. The march on Friday had 2,000 people. Not a huge story.

My son finished his army service and is in NY working with children with special needs.
EB

Mohn is a user of the YaLa - Young Leaders Facebook page, which Bronner reported on in a 9 July article, and Mohn posted Bronner’s email on that page. Bronner did not respond to an email from The Electronic Intifada asking him to confirm whether or not he wrote the email to Mohn.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed last week, Bronner’s 9 July report on the YaLa Young Leaders Facebook page contained outright fabrications and misrepresented the page as if it were a destination for thousands of Arabs interested in “coexistence” with Israel when in fact only a tiny handful of Facebook users ever had more than a cursory interaction with it.

Bronner’s response to Mohn suggests that Bronner – who is renowned for his “advocacy journalism” for Israel – is now all of a sudden getting fussy.

But here’s the rub: Bronner wrote a story promoting an insignificant Facebook page (and thus giving it a huge publicity boost), while dismissing a march of thousands of Israelis in Jerusalem amid the increasingly repressive and intolerant atmosphere of Israel’s so-called “democracy” as “Not a huge story.”

Thankfully there’s no need to rely on Bronner: read 16-year-old Jalal AbuKhater’s reportage on the march instead, as well as his political analysis of why he and other Palestinians felt uneasy about it.

Bronner’s reference to his son – whom Mohn had mentioned in his email to Bronner – is also interesting. Last year The Electronic Intifada revealed that the younger Bronner had enlisted in the Israeli occupation forces.

Having failed to originally disclose that his son joined an army that has created thousands of Palestinian children with “special needs” – by physically maiming them, subjecting them to psychological trauma, arresting hundreds in eastern occupied Jerusalem neighborhoods targeted for takeover by settlers, and besieging 800,000 in an open-air prison called Gaza, Bronner now gives us the news that his son is a humanitarian, helping kids in need.

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same for Canada's national newspaper the Globe and Mail. I had to write to Patrick Martin many times to get him to consider covering the Flotilla. He only responded once he knew Amira Haas was on board the Canadian Boat the Tahrir. This weekend, the 'big' story that he decided to report on was about the 'controversial' issue of a longer weekend in Israel and its effect on 'Shabbat'. Not the boycott law, not the demonstration in Jerusalem....I hear there might be some openings in News International, maybe they can apply!

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Bravo. This guy deserves to be nailed and your article does that. A very good book about The NYT bias is Howard Friel and Richard Falk's ISRAEL-PALESTINE ON RECORD ( Verso )

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On the subject of advocacy journalism, Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, recently said: “Advocacy journalism can be a very valuable thing: people with a cause, people who want to change the world, people who want to take the country in a different direction. And there is more of that. There are more organizations that are doing long-term investigative reporting and generally they do buy into advocacy journalism. There are others that are forming that are taking the traditional tact of pursuing the truth wherever it leads, without a preordained direction, and we tend to trust those, I think, a little bit more because they have a track record—the good ones—of being balanced.” (Gibson appeared on the Charlottesville, VA, politics interview program Politics Matters with host and producer Jan Madeleine Paynter discussing journalism http://bit.ly/pm-gibson)

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.