The Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, writes in her blog today that the paper should disclose the fact that columnist David Brooks has a son in the Israeli army. She did so after receiving complaints from a number of readers.
Although columnists are held to different standards than news reporters, she writes, “Mr. Brooks’s son is serving as a member of a foreign military force that has been involved in a serious international conflict – one that the columnist sometimes writes about and which has been very much in the news.”
She concludes that a “one-time acknowledgement of this situation in print (not in an interview with another publication) is completely reasonable.”
Sullivan received complaints after Brooks revealed his son’s status in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The story was published in Hebrew but picked up by U.S. journalists (see here and here).
The news echoed previous revelations that the son of former Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner was serving in the Israeli forces even as his father was reporting from Israel. This also prompted complaints from readers and a suggestion from then public editor Clark Hoyt that Bronner be reassigned. Bronner, however, remained at his post.
TimesWarp readers might be interested in visiting this blog’s “Times Staff” page, where they can find more information about the Bronner affair and the close ties between other Times writers, Israel and the Israeli military.
Readers may also want to see Alison Weir’s blog today on the Brooks revelations and her comments on Sullivan’s post.