Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has an article on the suspension of Michael Hiltzik’s L.A. Times-sponsored blog:
The Los Angeles Times suspended the blog of one of its top columnists last night, saying he violated the paper’s policy by posting derogatory comments under an assumed name.
The paper said in an online editor’s note that Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes the Golden State column, had admitted posting remarks on both his Times blog and on other Web sites under names other than his own. The Times said it is investigating the matter. Editor Dean Baquet declined comment, and Hiltzik said he could not comment.
The deceptive postings grew out of a running feud between Hiltzik and conservative bloggers in Southern California. One is Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk show host and blogger. The other is an assistant Los Angeles district attorney named Patrick Frey, who maintains a blog under the name Patterico’s Pontifications.
For a mainstream media account of the controversy, Kurtz’s story seems fair enough. Kurtz brings out the meat of the story — that Hiltzik’s various sock-puppet identities have praised and defended each other without disclosing that they are all Hiltzik — by quoting from my blog post:
Frey wrote that “the evidence is overwhelming that he has used more than one pseudonym. Hiltzik and his pseudonymous selves have echoed each other’s arguments, praised one another, and mocked each other’s enemies. All the while, Hiltzik’s readers have been unaware that (at a minimum) the acid-tongued ‘Mikekoshi’ . . . is in fact Hiltzik himself.”
Kurtz also quotes Hiltzik’s defense — the ludicrous strawman argument that I was simply upset at Hiltzik for being liberal:
On his Times blog, before the editor’s note appeared, Hiltzik did not deny using the name “Mikekoshi” and seemed to dismiss Frey’s complaint: “This is amusing, because most of the comments posted on his website are anonymous or pseudonymous. . . . 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.”
Hiltzik’s Pulitzer prize is mentioned. The fact that he was once disciplined for snooping into his colleagues’ e-mail is not.
The appearance of the story in the Washington Post is another reminder to Times editors that the issue won’t simply go away on its own.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Hiltzik should simply admit his wrongdoing, show a sincere understanding of why it was wrong, and pledge not to do it again.
There’s still time.