Don’t tell me there aren’t any good Arab/Palestinian reporters. There are dozens from Al Jazeera English, from other Arab stations and from Gaza. To suggest that only a Jew can cover this conflict, is, in itself, a racist idea.

The NYT should take an ethical stand and move Bronner someplace else.

—Truegreta

The question of whether this is a conflict of interest is easily resolved by simply asking how the Times would react if the kid had joined the other side. So I’ve rewritten the intro accordingly:

“The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief has a son who has joined the armed wing of Hamas. The Times’s public editor, Clark Hoyt, says this situation has the appearance of a conflict of interest, and the reporter should move to another beat. The paper’s editor, Bill Keller, publicly disagreed, and defended his reporter’s right to stay.”

Can anyone imagine Bill Keller doing this? Of course not. So really, what this story illustrates is not just the reporter’s conflict of interest, but the entire New York Times’ conflict of interest in Middle Eastern reporting, because this is a paper that sees one people as legitimate and the other as criminal.

—Kevin Robb

Bill Keller’s response is correct in principle, as far as it goes, but the real point here is that most of the US mainstream media is laughably biased in favour of Israel. It’s normal - the US has always had an affinity with Israel and post 9/11, all Arabs and Muslims became “the enemy.” The Bronner imbroglio shows that public opinion is now shifting in another direction. It also come at a time when, with the rapid development of the web, the NYT has two audiences, its core newspaper-buying American audience, which traditionally favours Israel, hence the paper’s own slant, and the global, well-educated, smart and English-speaking web audience, much of which is more sympathetic to the Palestinians. In the past it has been easy to dismiss this growing multicultural global intelligentsia; it’s not so easy any more.

Thus, neither Keller nor Hoyt addresses the real question. Hoyt talks about the “appearance of conflict of interest”. But people are only looking for “evidence” of a conflict of interest because they already believe the reporting is biased in the first place, based on its actual content. Keller disagrees because that bias is his newspaper’s default position.

The NYT’s repeated gaffes and mea culpas over the past 10 years reflect the angst with which the previously uber-confident society it comes from is facing both its own hubris and the development of a multi-polar world.

—Tom Spender

True Transparency

On Wednesday, Trudy Lieberman took a look at what a transparent debate on health care reform would have looked like, and what putting the talks on C-SPAN might or might not have accomplished. That prompted this bit of programming advice for the cable channel:

C-Span is most excellent at explaining complex issues or concepts in their in-depth interview formats. (TR Reid is scheduled for a 3-hour in-depth interview in March, which could be helpful in enlightening the public conversation). Good, understandable information also comes out when they broadcast panel discussions/debates as they did recently with this interesting session at UVA (the Q&A at the end was the most interesting, particularly the comments of the German economist about the current situation with Germany’s health system).

Personally, I thought it was really not worth pre-empting Book TV for the Senate vote. It’s important that they document the official proceedings but health reform is too complex to gain useful understanding just by watching Congress-cam. Also by the time they’re voting on such important issues, the public can do nothing about their decisions other than cheer or boo. Also Congress uses those sessions to inflame public opinion by throwing out buzz words or other pieces of shallow commentary which is another form of public-debate pollution (more bad hot air for a topic that needs clear deep breaths).

C-Span’s Writers in America series was a great format that could be adapted for health reform if, instead on focusing on the career of one writer at a time, they focused on the history and practice of healthcare in one universal-coverage country at a time.

I just searched C-Span and found zero results for William Hsiao. I think Brian Lamb should spend some quality time with the Harvard professor who designed Taiwan’s health system that provides affordable, universal coverage for the people of Taiwan.

—MB

O’Keefe Again

Finally, Greg Marx returned once more this week to James O’Keefe—and specifically to Max Blumenthal’s critical look at O’Keefe’s racial politics in Salon, which Marx found had gone astray on a key detail.

The Editors