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Report: NYT columnist David Brooks promoted a think tank without disclosing that he was being paid by them


The Aspen Institute's project reportedly received a $250,000 donation from Facebook. Brooks failed to disclose his ties to the project or Facebook to readers.

Robert A Tobiansky/Getty Images for SXSW

New York Times columnist David Brooks earned a second salary from a think tank he promoted in his columns without disclosing the relationship to readers, according to a report.

According to BuzzFeed News, Brooks was earning a second salary for his work on Weave: The Social Fabric Project, a project of the Aspen Institute that he founded and serves as the executive director for. The Aspen Institute is a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C. Brooks has been a paid contributor to the New York Times since 2003.

In 2018, the Weave project reportedly received funding from Facebook and though Brooks has written about Facebook in several of his columns, he has never disclosed the financial relationship he shares with the social network.

From BuzzFeed News:

In Dec. 2018, Facebook earmarked a $250,000 gift to the Aspen Institute for the project. Three months later, Brooks introduced Times readers to his concept of "Weavers," which he described as people who fight social isolation by "building community and weaving the social fabric" across the US.

"We need to create a shared Weaver identity," Brooks wrote in the column "A Nation of Weavers." To make that happen, Brooks explained, he had started Weave at the Aspen Institute.

Brooks has published multiple columns that promote Weave, in addition to writing pieces that mention Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, and the company's products without disclosing his financial ties to the social networking giant.

The amount and timing of Facebook's funding, which had not been previously reported, combined with Brooks's promotion of Weave in the Times, has raised questions about the columnist's conflicts of interest. Last Friday, BuzzFeed News reported that Brooks wrote a blog post for Facebook's corporate website that was timed with the release of a New York University–led study about Facebook Groups that was funded by the social media giant. Brooks did not tell his editors he was writing for Facebook, according to a Times spokesperson.

Brooks did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times said Brooks' work with Weave is under internal review.

"We're in the process of reviewing David's relationship with the Weave Project and the Aspen Institute, and what disclosures, if any, should be added to David's columns going forward," said Eileen Murphy, the senior vice president of corporate communications for the Times.

Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that Brooks published a 900-word blog post to Facebook's corporate website to promote a new study of groups that was funded by the company. Brooks also reportedly appeared on a Facebook-produced video panel about the study.

The Times told BuzzFeed News that it was not aware of Brooks' work with Facebook and that he was not compensated for it.

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