The departure of the ethically-challenged Ethan Bronner as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief earlier this year, and the arrival of his replacement Jodi Rudoren, gave rise to hope of a fresh start for the “newspaper of record’s” troubled coverage of Palestinians and Israelis.
Rudoren has already faced a storm of criticism from fanatical pro-Israel groups for doing what a reporter is supposed to do: talking to people of different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, and going out to see for herself.
By now Rudoren has probably figured out that no journalist doing her job professionally could ever hope to appease pro-Israel critics who demand nothing less than mindless recital of Israeli government talking points instead of reporting.
But no matter where Rudoren takes the bureau in years to come, there is unfinished business from the Bronner era.
It has been two months since Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) made the latest serious allegations – related to Rudoren’s colleague Isabel Kershner – but no one at the Times has publicly addressed them, including the public editor, Arthur Brisbane.
[Kershner’s] husband, Hirsh Goodman, works for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) as a senior research fellow and director of the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Program on Information Strategy, tasked with shaping a positive image of Israel in the media. An examination of articles that Kershner has written or contributed to since 2009 reveals that she overwhelmingly relies on the INSS for think tank analysis about events in the region.
The close family tie Kershner has to the leading Israeli think tank, a branch of Tel Aviv University, has never been disclosed to readers of the New York Times. The paper did not return requests for comment.
The INSS is well-connected to both the Israeli government and its military. Many of its associates come from government or military careers; its website boasts of the group’s “strong association with the political and military establishment.” In 2010, according to INSS financial documents, the Israeli government gave the institute about $72,000.
As Kane points out, the Times’ own ethics code recognizes that such family relations can be problematic. At the very least readers deserve disclosure and transparency.
Brisbane and Times management must know about Kershner’s conflict of interest, not least because FAIR issued an action alert about it a month ago.
Last September, Brisbane (who recently announced that he’s leaving the Times) essentially exonerated Ethan Bronner of any conflict of interest involving his association with Israeli PR firm Lone Star Communications and its bigoted owner Charley Levine.
Bronner also got away with a conflict of interest involving his son serving in the Israeli army, first revealed by The Electronic Intifada, after then Times executive editor Bill Keller declined to take the recommendation of the previous public editor, Clark Hoyt, that Bronner be reassigned.
Will Brisbane, or anyone else at the Times, deal with this latest, blatant and shocking conflict of interest involving Kersher and her husband, or are they hoping it will simply disappear if they remain silent?