When I was talking to my friend Marc Danziger (aka “Armed Liberal”) about the post I was planning to do about Michael Hiltzik’s sock puppets, he told me it was going to hit the mainstream press. I told him I didn’t think so. I figured it would cause a nice little blogosphere ripple and die there.
Following Howard Kurtz’s story in this morning’s Washington Post, the story has hit the Reuters and Associated Press news wires. Not surprisingly, the AP story is making its way into numerous publications.
The story is not going away.
Like Kurtz, the reporters who wrote these stories either didn’t know about Hiltzik’s 1990s e-mail snooping scandal, or didn’t consider it relevant (even as they found his Pulitzer prize worthy of mention).
The L.A. Times has not run a story yet, which is no surprise, given that they don’t really know what to say at this point. But the print edition of the paper ran this editors’ note (the same one that currently sits at the top of the now-suspended blog) in a small box on page A2, just above the corrections.
Cathy Seipp says that the paper is investigating Hiltzik’s past writings for evidence of dishonesty. I suppose they have to do that, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.
Hugh Hewitt’s producer called me today to ask if I could be on the show at 3:30 or so. Unfortunately, I couldn’t, due to my day job. Sorry, Hugh. I appreciate the invitation.
Hiltzik has apparently been told he cannot comment. But I’d like to think that he has privately told Times editors that he has learned from the experience. I have no evidence to support this hope, and plenty of evidence to indicate that he is not the type of person who easily admits guilt. This Slate piece by Michael Weiss sums up Hiltzik’s reaction better than the overly “objective” mainstream media reports do. Weiss says:
Defiant and unapologetic to the end, Hiltzik scorns his critics as making his liberal politics the issue, not the cloaked medium through which it was presented.
So it’s unlikely that Hiltzik will simply learn his lesson, admit guilt with contrition, and move on. But that is still my hope.
Many on this blog have said that I am going soft on Hiltzik by saying that I don’t think his actions warrant discipline — certainly not dismissal. I respect your opinions, but I continue to believe that embarrassment is a sufficient punishment. As I said this morning, I believe that far worse sins of intellectual dishonesty have been committed by many at the paper, on many occasions. For us to pretend that Hiltzik’s juvenile antics somehow sully the wonderful reputation of The Times for integrity and truth is to ignore the fact that, on many occasions, the paper’s editors have shown a disdain for the whole truth in their pursuit of an ideological agenda. This intellectual dishonesty has been far more detrimental to the dissemination of the truth to the public than Hiltzik’s silly Internet sock puppets.
I may try to further articulate my thoughts along these lines in coming posts.