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Los Angeles Times Suspends Hiltzik’s Blog for Ethics Violations

… and it all started with a comment on this blog (here; analysis here).

With Patterico’s evidence presumably in hand, the Los Angeles Times has given Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog a time out:

Notice from the Editors

The Times has suspended Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog on latimes.com. Hiltzik admitted Thursday that he posted items on the paper’s website, and on other websites, under names other than his own. That is a violation of The Times ethics policy, which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public. The policy applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper. The Times is investigating the postings.

Hiltzik’s response to Patterico’s investigation seems to be the very thing that got him in trouble. In part, it reads:

The right-wing blogger Patterico has apparently worked himself into a four-star ragegasm (Tbogg’s inimitable coinage) at the notion of anonymous or pseudonymous postings on his website by me. This is amusing, because most of the comments posted on his website are anonymous or pseudonymous. “Patterico” is itself a pseudonym for an Assistant Los Angeles District Attorney named Patrick Frey. Anonymity for commenters is a feature of his blog, as it is of mine. It’s a feature that he can withdraw from his public any time he wishes. He has chosen to do that in one case only, and we might properly ask why. The answer is that he’s ticked off that someone would disagree with him.

Set alight by my recent post tweaking Hugh Hewitt for his numbskulled method of analyzing newspaper economics and newspaper circulation, two subjects about which Hewitt claims omniscience and knows nothing, Frey evidently pored through the IP addresses of comments on his blog to discover that sometimes I commented under my own name, and sometimes under a pseudonym. He noticed that this is a pseudonym I’ve used on other occasions. He pats himself on the back (so to speak) for his brilliant sleuthing.

He seems to think that pseudonymous posting is deceptive, though he can’t articulate why that should be, given the abundance of pseudonyms and anonymity on his own blog starting with the name on the banner. He makes a stab at rationalizing his selective exposure of one out of his scores of pseudonymous commenters by complaining that my comments were “acid-tongued” or “insulting.”

… Is it so unusual for Frey to have pseudonymous postings on his blog? Let’s consider this post, where as Frey remarks that I got into a donnybrook with another commenter. What he disdains to mention is that of the 259 comments on that post, at least 230 are pseudonymous—including those of the commenter with whom I was tangling. … For the record, this blog also offers commenters anonymity, although our approach to it is a bit different from Frey’s: We don’t “out” anonymous commenters who disagree with us.

But Frey doesn’t really have an issue with pseudonymous posting. If he did, he could eliminate it from his blog with the click of a mouse button. By offering anonymity, does he implicitly commit himself to honoring it? I’d say so. Otherwise, he’s telling all his site visitors and commenters that they visit and post at their peril; if he doesn’t like what they say, he’ll invade their privacy (and concoct a “principled” pretext for doing so).

Of course, his real goal isn’t to make all his commenters disclose their real names or to delve into the ethical and moral dimensions of Internet anonymity. It’s to quash debate on his blog.

No, Patterico’s ‘real goal’ was to expose someone deceiving their readership. The always-arrogant Hiltzik doesn’t even realize that the issue is not anonymous commenting — it’s that Hiltzik was patting himself on the back under his pseudonym! Since the blogosphere is peer-reviewed, he was falsely building his own credibility.

Perhaps he should have saved the time he spent commenting on our privacy policy and thought about the ethics of deceiving his readers.


Update: The relevant section of the LAT ethics policy seems to be:

The Times expects its editorial staff to behave with dignity and professionalism. We do nothing while gathering the news that we would be ashamed to see in print or on television. We do not let the behavior of the pack set standards for us.

In general, we identify ourselves as staff members when covering news events. There are some instances when offering such identification is impossible, impractical or counterproductive, but in no case should a staff member lie about his or her affiliation with The Times. We should deal honorably with people and institutions we cover, just as we expect them to deal honorably with us.

So much for “dignity.”


Update 2: Hiltzik’s line “… one of the defining characteristics of Frey’s style is the casual attribution of moral and intellectual faults to others that he exhibits in stupendous measure himself” is classic Hiltzik arrogance.


Update 3: Patterico’s thoughtful comments about Hiltzik’s rant are here.


Update 4: Hugh Hewitt reviews the LAT ethics policy and thinks that if the LAT followed it to the letter, the “what to do about Hiltzik” debate would end at the introduction. But he’s willing to give Hiltzik parole.

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9 Responses to “Los Angeles Times Suspends Hiltzik’s Blog for Ethics Violations”

  1. 1
    Bradley J. Fikes Says:

    The site, and the notice, were up again last time when I checked a few minutes ago. (I tested with another browser, to make sure I wasn’t getting a cached version).. The interruuption may simply be a result of heavy traffic.

  2. 2
    A Senior Administration Official Says:

    Insider mispoke on the original post — it wasn’t “taken down,” but “suspended” with no new activity.

  3. 3
    Patterico’s Pontifications » COMMENTS: Blogger/Blog*Spot does not support Says:

    [...] er is that he’s ticked off that someone would disagree with him. […] Pingback by Independent Sources » Blog Archive &raquo [...]

  4. 4
    A Senior Administration Official Says:

    Thanks — you are right; I think Insider — who originally wrote this post — assumed Hiltzik’s reply would be the topmost post on Golden State, and when it wasn’t, assumed it had been pulled.

  5. 5
    Gaius Arbo Says:

    It was our exclusive photo(s) that did him in! Bwahahahahaha

    Gaius

    PS. Thanks for linking my humble blog.

  6. 6
    Insider Says:

    It still does not appear to be taking comments. Last comment was from 11:45 this morning and they did not post the comment I attempted to leave several hours ago.

  7. 7
    KURU Lounge Says:

    . Insider and Senior Administration Official have had some really good stuff lately, starting with the Charlie Sheen conspiracy post and it’s follow-ups, and running up through the entire Michael Hitzik scandal (also here, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Full Disclosure I have posted on Independent Sources, but not on these two subjects. I will be working on a conspiracy post with Insider and SAO soon. Not that the amount of traffic I get here will seriously

  8. 8
    Hugh Hewitt Says:

    I wonder if some energetic MSMer will track down Carroll to get his reaction to his legacy at the Times? And are the Times’ guidelines written down somewhere? I requested them hours ago but have not received a response.Independent Sources points to this 1999 document, but I can’t be sure it is the controlling document. (Independent Sources also buys into the characterization of the Hiltzik offense as failure to identify oneself as a Timesman as opposed to the knowing publication of

  9. 9
    Hugh Hewitt Says:

    [...] hics,” (dated in 1999, but clearly updated as it refers to “blogs”) as found on the web by Independent Sources. Scroll down to locate that ana [...]