Monday, October 24, 2005

News From the REAL Times Scandal

Bronner: Decries 'Simplistic Phrasing'
We'll See.....

The scandal to which I refer is, of course, not the protracted, back-stabbing, politically motivated effort of the New York Times management, led by Times editor Bill Keller and the Empty Suit Barney Calame, to back away from Judith Miller.

Plenty of agonizing over that in the media for the past few days--though why, I don't know. Seems simple to me: Miller was simply too politically incorrect for the Times, and now she is being fed to the wolves.

No, the real scandal is the Times's rigid pursuit of ideological purity -- particularly its down-the-line backing of the Palestinians against Israel. And in that there have been some signs of movement:

1. The Times today published an unsigned article that actually mentioned Palestinian obligations under the Road Map for Peace, and

2. The Times's deputy foreign editor, Ethan Bronner, told a reader that the Times will avoid what he described as "simplistic" (translation: inaccurate) descriptions of Palestinian "president" Mohammed Abbas.

This is good news. A crack in the granite wall of arrogance surrounding the Times, but let's not hold our breath about the wall coming down.

The article in question ran online yesterday, and then this slightly rewritten version today. (For some reason, both versions carry the byline of Steve Erlanger, but no such byline appears in the print edition.) Anyway, as you may recall, Erlanger has stubbornly avoided referring to Palestinian obligations to dismantle terrorist groups under the Road Map for Peace. Erlanger, and his boss Ethan Bronner, went on to engage in a revealing email exchange with a reader.

Well, apparently Erlanger has learned to read! His story is actually..... amazingly.... accurate! It says as follows:
Under the peace plan, Mr. Abbas and the Palestinians are committed to disbanding
ll armed groups that carry out terrorism against Israel and seizing their
weapons. Mr. Abbas and his aides say that he will not try to take the weapons
away from Hamas, Islamic Jihad or other groups, but instead insist that they
keep them out of sight - a position Israel rejects as a violation of the peace

See, Stevie? That wasn't so hard, was it. True, the online version yesterday began the paragraph by saying "under the road map"--I guess the phrase sticks in Erlanger's throat -- but still, it is awfully nice for the Times to recognize reality, contrary to its longstanding policy of downplaying Palestinian obligations under the Road Map and pooh-poohing Palestinian violations of every agreement they have signed. As I indicated in a recent post, the Times actually deleted a reference to the Road Map from a story by Greg Myre last week.

As I said in a post on Friday, this got the dander up of a reader of this blog (and no, folks, the reader was not yours truly.....). That led to an exchange of emails in which Bronner promised to do better next time.

Well, Bronner went further in yet another email to the reader on Sunday.

Our man said:
" I think when an article is discussing the Israeli/Palestinian dispute of the day and is talking about the road map, the article should point out whose position is consistent with the road map and whose is not.

"A phrase such as 'as is called for in the road map' would work. Also, I noticed in a Greg Myre piece that such a phrase was excised in the print edition of the Times. Can you explain why that happened and whether it was justified?

"[In early correspondence] I noted that saying that Abbas 'opposes violence' was overly simplistic. Mr. Abbas, for whatever reason, has not cracked down on anti-Israeli violence. He has also failed to rein in the teaching of irredentism at Palestinian schools and his record regarding the stopping of vehement hate speech on PA media is decidedly mixed. . . .Your reporting elevates Abbas' words over his inactions. Do you agree with me? Or do you think I am mistaken?"

Bronner responded:

we will certainly make every effort to be careful. regarding abbas, there is no simple answer. everything we know about him tells us he opposes violence today. the fact that he is seeking to change hamas rather than crack down on it may or may not tell us something about the sincerity of his beliefs. we will try to avoid simplistic phrasing.
Let's see if Bronner is sincere. I tend to doubt it. But somehow I have a funny feeling that maybe this guy's pressure is the reason you saw the Times actually mention the road map today. Who knows?

If there is any further improvement of its handling of Middle Eastern stories-- and other areas in which it has fallen short--by the Times, it will not be because of any sudden attack of conscience. It will be the result of pressure by people like the guy who sent those emails.

It's comforting to know that there are people out there who are willing to do the kind of jawboning that a competent public editor would do--if the Times had one, and not the management shill named Barney Calame it has propped up behind a desk. People like this guy -- a person with no journalistic background, I might add -- do it because they savor the truth. In that regard, they have absolutely nothing in common with the current management of that once-great newspaper.

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