Is David Pogue’s Relationship Creating a Conflict of Interest?

'Times' columnist has been dating a tech publicist

David Pogue, The New York Times tech columnist who was recently arrested for disorderly conduct following a domestic dispute with his wife, whom he’s divorcing—he allegedly hit her with an iPhone—is in hot water again, thanks to The Daily Beast.

It turns out that Pogue has been dating Nicki Dugan, a vice president at OutCast Agency, a San Francisco PR firm that represents big-time tech companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon. (Fittingly, Dugan made the relationship public on her own Facebook page.) Meanwhile, Pogue has been writing about companies represented by OutCast without mentioning his connection to a senior member of the firm.

But Pogue’s editor at the Times, Damon Darlin, has known about the relationship since last December, and doesn’t think that it’s a problem. He said that Pogue hasn’t written about any companies that Dugan personally represents, and that OutCast has been told not to pitch stories to the writer. OutCast’s CEO Alex Constantinople, who became aware of the connection around the same time, also doesn’t see it as a conflict of interest since Dugan isn’t pitching stories to Pogue.

Still, the relationship isn’t sitting well with some people, especially in light of the Times’ strict ethics policies. (Not to mention Pogue’s history of failing to disclose other pertinent connections.) “What he’s saying is, 'Just trust me. I don’t need to tell you anything. Just trust me,’” said a PR exec at one tech company. “But hiding this is a mistake. Pretending it doesn’t matter is a mistake. Perception is reality.”