Patterico's Pontifications

4/30/2006

Glenn Reynolds on Hiltzik’s Sock Puppets: He Agrees With Me!

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 10:33 pm

I have argued for a couple of weeks now that Michael Hiltzik’s use of pseudonyms as sock puppets was embarrassing and silly, but not something that should get him disciplined by the Los Angeles Times — beyond, perhaps, a temporary suspension of his blog. (See my posts here and here, and the UPDATE below, for more on why I feel this way.)

Guess what? The King of the Blogosphere, Glenn Reynolds, agrees with me.

Glenn was on Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” show on CNN this morning. Glenn discussed the Hiltzik matter at the very end of his appearance. The video is available at Expose the Left, here, and the relevant segment appears at 15:21. I can’t find a transcript, so I created one for your benefit:

Howard Kurtz: Glenn Reynolds, I want to turn now to Michael Hiltzik. He’s the Los Angeles Times columnist and blogger who lost his column and his blog just the other day, over an incident in which he posted, on his own blog and on other people’s blogs, some pretty disparaging language under pseudonyms. He didn’t use his own name; The Times said that this was unacceptable.

Should a blogger for a news organization, as opposed to an independent guy like yourself, be able to post comments anonymously?

Glenn Reynolds: Well, you know, I don’t know. To me, this seems more like a misdemeanor than like a felony. I mean, what he basically did is, he created what is known in the Internet world as “sock puppets,” which were fake IDs in the comments section of his blog and others, and these “sock puppets” would say:

[Holding up hands to imitate sock puppets]

[Right hand:] “Michael Hiltzik’s really smart!”

[Left hand:] “Yes, he is!”

[Laughter from Kurtz]

And, you know, they would take his side in arguments with other commenters and such. And, you know, it’s quite embarrassing for him to have it come out. It’s kinda cheesy, but . . . I guess this is my day to say that people aren’t as bad as the general press coverage of them is, but, you know, it just doesn’t seem like a felony to me. It seems like the tackiness rule should apply.

Kurtz: All right, we’ll leave it there. He also did get suspended for an undetermined period of time.

I think Glenn is exactly right. I have said all along that embarrassment should have been punishment enough for Hiltzik. It’s nice to know someone as level-headed as Glenn agrees.

P.S. This post by one of the principals behind the Independent Sources blog — which started the whole ball rolling on this controversy — is worth reading in its entirety. Highlights:

Bloggers were fine with the pseudonyms, but thought Hiltzik’s greater sin was the sock-puppetry: using those pseudonyms to talk up Hiltzik’s Golden State Blog both on its pages and at other blogs. If Hiltzik was going to post comments on Golden State as Michael Hiltzik — which he did — then it was deceitful to also comment under any other name.

. . . .

Even though bloggers were focused on what they perceived to be a greater sin, few were calling for Hiltzik’s head [citations]. The punishment had already been meted out, virtually instantaneously: post-Patterico, any knowledgeable person reading Hiltzik would henceforth do so with a few extra grains of salt.

This is the most fascinating part of this final chapter in l’affaire Hiltzik. The bloggers who did so much to bring Hiltzik’s deceit to light were far more forgiving than the institution for which he has toiled for over 20 years. The bloggers, it seems, associated Hiltzik’s transgression with Hiltzik himself, not with the LAT. And his punishment would be swift and fair — his devaluation in the marketplace of ideas.

Read it all.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn for the link. I hope new readers bookmark the main page, blogroll the site, and return daily. You can subscribe via Bloglines, by clicking on this button:

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My original post on Hiltzik’s sock puppetry was here.

I know many will say: but, but . . . Hiltzik was dishonest! I address that argument in the posts linked above, but here’s the argument in a nutshell: gee, someone from the L.A. Times did something dishonest? Stop the presses!

If the paper is going to can everyone who has been intellectually dishonest in their pages, there are a lot of heads that belong on the chopping block before Hiltzik’s — starting with the people responsible for their (non)coverage of Mary McCarthy’s partisanship, and continuing with the issues I document in this post. These instances of bias and distortion are far more significant than Hiltzik’s silly sock puppets.

Hiltzik’s New Assignment?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 9:03 pm

Nikki Finke says that, after his suspension, Michael Hiltzik will be reassigned to “sports investigations.”

Take it for what it’s worth.

Hiltzik Suspension in the Media

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 12:55 pm

The AP has reported on Michael Hiltzik’s suspension and the end of his column. The AP story seems to be confused about columns and blogs, twice saying that I made accusations against Hiltzik in a “column” (really my blog) and saying that Hiltzik’s “blog” (really his column) appeared most Mondays and Thursdays.

The story also appears in Editor and Publisher, which quotes the L.A. Times Editors’ Note with little commentary.

UPDATE: An edited version of the AP story appears in tomorrow’s New York Times. I love this bit:

Mr. Hiltzik had been in a blog feud with Patrick Frey, the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, who writes the conservative blog Patterico’s Pontifications.

That word I bolded, “the,” was evidently added to the AP story by New York Times editors. (I base this on a comparison of the AP story linked above with the NYT version.) Which makes me chuckle, because the sentence made sense the way the AP wrote it, but is highly confusing as it appears in the “Paper of Record.”

Either the New York Times thinks there’s only one Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County (try 900+), or there is an extra comma in there somewhere. Either way, they should have left the sentence alone.

Ah, the things I could have told these people — if any of them had ever bothered to call me.

UPDATE x2: The Washington Post is also running the AP story — but without the goofy editing.

4/29/2006

Sock-Puppet Pseudonyms by a Journalist . . . Pseudonym . . . Journalist . . . Pseudo . . . This Reminds Me of Something . . . Don’t Tell Me . . . It’s on the Tip of My Tongue

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 10:01 am

I just have one question about the Hiltzik affair: was it an example of pseudo-journalism?

4/28/2006

Tell L.A. Times Editors Whether You Think They Handled the Hiltzik Matter Properly

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Dog Trainer,General,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 11:03 pm

I mentioned this in my Hiltzik roundup below, but I think it’s worth highlighting.

At the “Opinion L.A.” blog at the L.A. Times, Matt Welch has done a post about the Hiltzik affair. He has provided background links that shed light on the matter, including a link to my original post on Hiltzik’s sock-puppet pseudonyms.

And the post allows comments.

You should respect that. And you should also take advantage of the opportunity.

No matter what your opinion may be about the Hiltzik affair — including what he did, and how the paper handled it — you can now express that opinion on an L.A. Times blog. I think you should. Let the editors know what you think. Go here and leave a comment.

P.S. Be civil. And save your comments. I want to see if any comments get blocked. (I doubt it, especially if Matt Welch has the final say as to whether comments are approved or not — but he might not.) If any comments do get blocked, I want to know what they said.

P.P.S. The policy on comments is that they prefer for commenters to use their real names. (I guess that lets out “Masha” and “workingjournalist” from participating!) Also, comments are indeed moderated, meaning that your comment posted after midnight will not go up immediately.

If you leave a comment there, let me know.

P.P.P.S. Most commenters are reporting that their comments are being published at the Times blog, usually instantly. It seems that — with the exception of one fringe leftist who commented both at the Times blog and my blog, leaving profanity all over his comment at my site — most of the discussion is civil, respectful, and substantive. That’s good to see.

DoS Attack

Filed under: Blogging Matters,General — Patterico @ 6:42 pm

This blog and many other conservative blogs have been inaccessible for much of today due to a denial of service attack on my host, Hosting Matters.

My apologies for any inconvenience.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has details on the attack here.

Hiltzik Column Discontinued; He Won’t Be Fired

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 4:58 pm

Los Angeles Times editors announced this afternoon that they are discontinuing Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State column, as well as the blog of the same name. Hiltzik will be reassigned after serving a suspension. Here is the editors’ note:

The Times is discontinuing Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State column, which ran in the Business section, because the columnist violated the newspaper’s ethics guidelines. This follows the suspension last week of his blog on latimes.com, which also has been discontinued. Hiltzik has acknowledged using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper.

Hiltzik did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web. But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of The Times’ ethics guidelines: Staff members must not misrepresent themselves and must not conceal their affiliation with The Times. This rule applies equally to the newspaper and the Web world.

Over the past few days, some analysts have used this episode to portray the Web as a new frontier for newspapers, saying that it raises fresh and compelling ethical questions. Times editors don’t see it that way. The Web makes it easier to conceal one’s identity, and the tone of exchanges is often harsh. But the Web doesn’t change the rules for Times journalists.

After serving a suspension, Hiltzik will be reassigned.

UPDATE: Kevin Roderick has the text of a staff memo from Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Doug Frantz, which expands on the Editors’ Note:

By now most of you know that Mike Hiltzik has acknowledged violating the paper’s ethics guidelines. He did so by using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper.

Because of this violation, we are discontinuing Mike’s column in the newspaper, Golden State, and his blog of the same name. In addition, we are suspending Mike without pay for a period of time. At the end of the suspension, he will be reassigned.

Killing a column is a serious step. We don’t take it lightly. Mike did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web.

But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of our ethics guidelines: We do not misrepresent ourselves and we do not conceal our affiliation with The Times. This rule applies equally to the newspaper and the Web world. We expect Times employees to behave with integrity and follow our guidelines in all journalistic forums.

A columnist has a special place within The Times. Editors, colleagues and, most of all, readers must trust the integrity and judgment of a columnist because of the freedom that comes with the job. Mike often used his column to pillory business leaders for duplicity or violating the trust of employees, shareholders or the public and we are no longer comfortable granting him that special place within our newspaper.

Over the past few days, some analysts have used this episode to portray the Web as a new frontier for newspapers. Some have said it raises fresh and compelling ethical questions. We don’t see it that way. The Web makes it easier to conceal one’s identity, and the tone of exchanges is often harsh. But the Web doesn’t change the rules for journalists.

The Web has created new opportunities for newspapers. It is undoubtedly a big part of our future. It is a competitive and chaotic world. The most important attributes we bring to that new world are our reputation, our integrity and our determination to put out a great newspaper that behaves in accordance with the highest ethical standards.

Dean and Doug

UPDATE x2: Obviously, the decision was the editors’ to make, and they have made it. I will have to reflect on this. I may post further thoughts over the weekend. Regardless of whether this was the right move, I take no joy in the result, and I encourage readers to show class and restraint in their comments.

Meanwhile, selected reactions will be posted below the fold as they come in. If you are on the main page, click on “more” for those reactions; otherwise, simply keep reading:

(more…)

4/27/2006

Who is Juan Non-Volokh?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:43 pm

Over at Volokh, pseudonymous poster Juan Non-Volokh is about to unmask himself, and Eugene Volokh is goading commenters to guess who he really is. The overwhelming consensus: Jonathan Adler.

Tony Snow: A Bush Sycophant Whose Past Criticism of Bush Is Certain to Haunt Him

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:26 pm

The L.A. Times runs several pieces on Tony Snow today. I’d like to highlight two, for the juxtaposition.

One story is designed to showcase the view of many on the left that Snow, as a former Fox News journalist, is a sniveling sycophant of the Bush Administration. The story is titled Guffaws About a Fox Guarding the White House, and begins in this way:

NEW YORK — The selection of Fox News host Tony Snow on Wednesday as the next White House press secretary reignited a debate about the network’s political leanings.

The liberal blogosphere chortled about the choice. “Snow, like everybody else on the payroll at Fox, is already a White House spokesman,” the blog Reclusive Leftist read, one of many liberal sites that mocked the move. “Is there really a need to give him an office in the West Wing and pay him a government salary?”

On the same page, another story highlights numerous quotes from Snow designed to reveal the awkward truth that Snow has been very critical of the Bush White House in the past — perhaps too critical! The thrust of the story appears to be: boy, this guy has uttered quite a few things that are certain to come back to haunt him — and here are some of them! The story is titled New Bush Hire Has an Outspoken Past. The deck headline reads: “Some say Tony Snow’s bluntness in matters such as race may be a risk as press secretary.” (Good old “some“! Is there anything they don’t know?) Here is a reference to Snow’s past criticism of Bush:

As a conservative commentator, Snow’s job was to be provocative and fire up the faithful. Sometimes that led him to level blunt criticism of Bush, whose policy agenda he recently derided as “listless.” Snow also said his future boss appeared “impotent” in defending his presidential powers.

A sidebar (apparently not available online) is titled “In the words of Tony Snow” and has these quotes, among others:

“A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding [sic -- P.] the public fisc. George W. Bush and his colleagues have become not merely the custodians of the largest government in the history of humankind, but also exponents of its vigorous expansion.” — Townhall.com, March 17, 2006

“No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential power and prerogatives. Nearly 57 months into his administration, President Bush has yet to veto a single bill of any type. . . .” — Townhall.com, Sept. 30, 2005

“Bush, for all his personal appeal, ultimately bolstered his detractors’ claims that he didn’t have the drive and work ethic to succeed.” — Townhall.com, Nov. 16, 2000

The editors appear resistant to the obvious conclusion: that the theme of the first story (Snow’s sycophancy to Bush) is completely undercut by the theme of the second (Snow’s bluntness, including his harsh criticism of Bush). For example, the story about Snow’s alleged sycophancy never says, “But Snow has been very critical of the President. For example . . .” And the other story, about Snow’s allegedly sharp tongue, derides as White House “spin” the argument that Snow’s criticism of the President shows his honesty:

But how will Snow adapt those sharp-tongued skills to his new role at the White House, where his predecessor, Scott McClellan, seemed to make it his goal to appear as sedate and non-provocative as possible? Bush and his aides on Wednesday tried to put a positive spin on Snow’s bluntness, offering his past words as evidence that the White House was not as averse to dissent, as critics had alleged.

Meanwhile, the editors of the Los Angeles Times tried to put a negative spin on it.

And readers of this blog saw through it.

P.S. I love the comment Bush attributed to Snow regarding his criticism of the president:

“For those of you who have read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me,” Bush said as he introduced Snow to a packed West Wing press room. “I asked him about those comments, and he said, ‘You should have heard what I said about the other guy.’ “

Heh. Now that’s a guy who can outthink and outperform David Gregory and Helen Thomas.

Dana Priest on the Framers’ Approval of Her Actions

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:04 pm

Dana Priest says of Bill Bennett:

[H]e seems to be of the camp that the government and only the government should decide what the public should know in the area of national security. In this sense, his views run contrary to the framers of the Constitution who believed a free press was essential to maintaining not just a democracy, but a strong, vibrant democracy in which major policy is questions are debated in the open.

The framers believed that partisan government officials should have the right to disseminate classified information to partisan journalists?

Gotcha.

Or, as Allah writes in his tip about this story: “After all, why should the government decide when Dana Priest and Mary McCarthy are available to do so?”

P.S. The L.A. Times still isn’t reporting anything of the partisan ties of either woman. There are no new stories about Mary McCarthy since their last deceptive bilge, which implied that she is nonpartisan (by repeating quotes asserting that she is not an “ideologue”), while failing to report the evidence that she is indeed very much a Democrat partisan. You still pretty much have to be in tune with the blogosphere to know about McCarthy’s extensive Democrat partisan ties.

Hey, Dana Priest: if the framers were around today, the First Amendment would have an explicit protection for bloggers:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the blogosphere . . .

If they read the L.A. Times, they might even be tempted to do away with the bit about the press . . .

UPDATE: Read Jeff Goldstein. Which you should be doing anyway . . .

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