Powered by WebAds

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Conflict of interest?

Self-hating Jew Max Blumenthal accuses New York Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner of a conflict of interest for accepting speaking engagements from one of the largest PR agencies in Israel.
In 2009, Bronner, who has run the bureau since March 2008, joined the speakers bureau of one of Israel’s top public relations firms, Lone Star Communications. Lone Star arranges speaking dates for Bronner and takes 10 to 15 percent of his fee. At the same time, Lone Star pitches Bronner stories.

Bronner says his speaking relationship with Lone Star is minimal, non-exclusive, and “not a very active one”—some half a dozen speeches out of seventy-five or so he’s given over the last three and a half years to nonprofit groups. His speaking fees, he says, are low, and “My public speaking reflects my newspaper writing—it is reportorial, analytical, and non-adversarial—and fully in keeping with New York Times ethical guidelines,” Bronner wrote in a response to interview questions. The Times backs him up. To Bronner’s responses,“We would add only that his speaking appearances for nonprofit groups all conform to Times ethics guidelines, and that we have complete confidence in his professionalism and impartiality,” Eileen Murphy, the Times’s vice president of corporate communications, wrote in an e-mail.

Still, the quantity of Bronner’s speeches and the quality of his news coverage are not at question, only that he takes paid speaking engagements from a firm that also pitches him stories. Complicating the arrangement is the fact that Lone Star has a fairly clear ideological bent, and that Bronner has reported on a handful of the firm’s PR clients—this in a bureau where every nuance is scrutinized. And a reader of the Times’s ethics guidelines might come to a different conclusion about what they say about such an arrangement.
Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. The speaking engagement about which Blumenthal goes on to complain happened before the speakers' bureau was ever formed.
Lone Star in turn arranged an exclusive tour for Bronner. “The feeling was the Times was the most serious periodical who could run the story who could generate serious publicity and generate fundraising from the get-go,” Willner said. “And so the feeling was that if it was a New York Times story, it was worth its weight in gold.” Bronner published an October 30, 2008 feature in the Times that examined the historical and political controversies surrounding the dig. Dozens of media outlets also covered the excavation and, within days, the project at Khirbet Qeiyafa had gathered so much attention that the comedian Seth Meyers joked about the dig in a bit on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”
And one look at the speakers Blumenthal lists (and one has to wonder whom else he is leaving out) shows that they represent a cross-section of Israeli political views. In early 2009, Levine supplemented Lone Star’s operation by establishing a speakers bureau designed to arrange paid lectures for major media figures in Israel.
His first speaker was Bronner, who he described in an e-mail to CJR as “a nominal friend and a terrific journalist.” Levine rounded out his roster of speakers with eight well-known Israeli media figures, including Haim Yavin, “founding father of Israel television news”; David Baker, “senior foreign press coordinator of the Israeli prime minister’s office—under four prime ministers”; and Amiel Ungar, “well-known spokesman of the settler movement in Judea and Samaria.” The speakers bureau section of the Lone Star site is illustrated with a photo of Levine and Bronner arm-in-arm.
Haim Yavin is known as a Leftist politically, and if David Baker served four Prime Ministers, you can bet that they were not Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu - and even that would be a stretch to count Sharon is a Rightist.

Moreover, anyone who writes gets stories pitched to them. I get stories pitched to me in emails all the time, and I'm sure Ethan Bronner gets a lot more of them (and a lot better ones) than I do.
Bronner says he gets several dozen story pitches a week, and only a few come through Lone Star. “Hearing from Lone Star impresses me no more than hearing from any other pitch source,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I look at the journalistic potential in the context of what else I am working on and try to act accordingly.” Since Bronner joined Lone Star’s speakers bureau, he has mentioned or written about Lone Star PR clients in at least five stories.
Blumenthal goes on smear Levine and Lone Star - if you're interested read the whole thing. But here's the key: There's a lot to complain about in the New York Times' coverage of Israel. And the fact that there is a lot to complain about shows - if nothing else - that Ethan Bronner is definitely not in the pocket of the Israeli Right as Max Blumenthal would have you believe.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home