NYT public editor says Jessica Lessin should have been more forthcoming about Facebook conflict of interest

Yesterday, the New York Times published an op-ed by tech journalist Jessica Lessin, founder of the Information, who argued that Facebook should not be in the business of fact-checking news, despite rampant fake stories on the platform. In the last paragraph, Lessin adds that her husband “did work there for a brief period.” What she doesn’t mention is that her husband, Sam Lessin, is longtime friends with Mark Zuckerberg—dating back to college—and has done business with the Facebook founder for years.

That wasn’t good enough for Liz Spayd, the New York Times‘ public editor, who published a piece today calling out Lessin for not being more forthright. “I wouldn’t expect Times editors to necessarily put all that information in a piece explaining Jessica Lessin’s connections to a company she’s writing about,” Spayd writes. “But simply saying her husband ‘worked at Facebook for a brief period’ doesn’t cut it.”

What Lessin wrote in the final paragraphs, Spayd says, “reveals nothing about the elements of Lessin’s biography that seem most pertinent.” In short: Lessin should have more clearly stated her potential conflict of interest. Others on Twitter agree.

Read Spayd’s full analysis and Lessin’s response here.CGW