New York Times columnist Brooks resigns from the think tank due to a conflict of interest
The Times said in an unsigned statement on Saturday that Brooks editors “have concluded that they hold a paid position at [Aspen] If David presents a conflict of interest in writing about the work of the project, its donors, or the broader issues it is focusing on, ”and that he has left the organization.
The statement also said that future columns by Brooks will disclose his relationship with Weave. The editor’s notes are added to previous Brooks columns to clarify his role.
Brook’s resignation appears to resolve the primary conflicts of interest and confidentiality issues first raised by coverage in BuzzFeed News. But questions about Brooks and the Times remain unanswered.
The Times statement said the columnist’s paid relationship with Aspen was approved by his previous editors, but his current editors were unaware of the agreement. This suggests that the Times once found it convenient for Brooks’ column to praise a project for which he was being compensated without telling readers about his financial ties, a clear conflict of interest, and a violation of traditional media ethics.
The statement also makes no mention of why the Times changed its mind, despite its actions being followed by a flurry of unfavorable news articles about Brooks, a veteran journalist.
Since the start of the project, Brooks has written about it in the Times and mentioned it on PBS NewsHour, where he is a regular contributor. In a column from May 2019 he highlighted one of his first events and then covered the event in another column, which was illustrated by photos by a Times photographer. “The people at this meeting are some of the most compelling people I have ever met,” he wrote.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy and editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury declined to answer any further questions about Brooks on Saturday.
Other questions concern Brooks’ public statements on the subject. During an appearance on NewsHour on Friday, Brooks told host Judy Woodruff that he had been transparent on the matter. “We have it fully disclosed,” he said. “Everything was public.”
In fact, neither Brooks nor The Times had previously mentioned to readers that Brooks was being compensated by Aspen and that Facebook was funding it. Speaking on Meet the Press last March, Brooks said she was positive about the social media site NextDoor, without revealing that NextDoor is also a weave donor, BuzzFeed reported.
Brooks also told Woodruff that he hadn’t “written meaningfully” or mentioned any of Weave’s donors in his Times column, or mentioned them in his NewsHour comments. “It didn’t affect my journalism,” he said.
While this is true of his Times and PBS work, Brooks has written guest columns for the corporate Facebook website praising the social media giant.
A column he wrote for Facebook last month appeared to exempt the company from promoting disinformation, anti-Semitism and the jokes of Russian elections, all of which were documented by Times journalists. “My insight” from social science research into the role of Facebook, he wrote, “is that the problem is not social media, but the ideas and behavior of the people who use it.”
Brooks hasn’t responded to requests for comment since Thursday.