Patterico's Pontifications

4/28/2006

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:

Mack Reed:

The memo from Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Doug Frantz puts it pretty well, but almost misses Hiltzik’s crime against authorial morality in pinpointing the one against editorial policy . . .

The betrayal of trust is definitely one of journalism’s most serious offenses.

But from a blogger’s point of view, Hiltzik’s sin wasn’t posting under a pseudonym. Half the bloggers on the web do that, and some even make a living at it.

No, he stumbled by manufacturing two of his greatest fans, posing as them on his own blog and others, and trying to mislead the public as to his own popularity – both the height of vanity and the depth of stupidity for a blogger. It was only a matter of time before someone exposed him. If you proclaim yourself a truth-teller and analyst of fact, you can’t get away with lying for long in this venue.

In short, Hiltzik was bogus. He decided it was better to look loved than to let his audience ever dislilke him. And he got kneecapped for his efforts.

End of chapter.

It’ll be interesting to see what fun, experimental turf a Times blogger tries to lead us all into next.

Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings:

The L.A. Times, in classic “bury the news” mode, has released this news on a Friday afternoon. A Times editor’s note to readers is at the subject link.

Hiltzik will be “reassigned.” I think that is overly generous on the Times’ part, considering this isn’t Hiltzik’s first ethical transgression. Apparently his pseudonym “sock puppetry,” as some bloggers are calling it, on top of hacking into his colleagues’ email accounts while he was stationed in Moscow years ago, wasn’t enough to merit firing in his employer’s eyes.

Unless Hiltzik has suddenly decided to reform, what will his ethical transgression be at his next Times assignment?

Hugh Hewitt:

Isn’t it at least a little ironic that the Times releases this information on a Friday afternoon, traditional burial ground of bad news– in an obvious effort to have the story pass with as little attention as possible? So much for transparency.

Michael Hiltzik is just one of hundreds of examples of ideologicially blinkered agenda journalists at the Times. He just got caught.

The Times concludes “an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting.”

Yeah. Right. Very believable. Hiltzik may become an invisible presence at the paper, the Pulitzer Prize winner at the copy desk, or he may quit, but he’ll no doubt haunt message boards.

But the culture at the Times that produced him quite obviously stays the same.

Bradley J. Fikes:

The LA Times has consistently dodged this issue and issued in its editors’ note what I can only call disinformation:

“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.”

Here they go again: The old dodge of mischaracterizing an argument you don’t want to answer. But refusing to discuss the issue won’t make it go away. The Times’ evasions fool no one, any more than did Hiltzik’s.

This unwillingness to face reality sheds light on the Times’ culture of self-deception, a culture that let Hiltzik think he could get away with deceiving others.

Flap:

The Los Angeles Times gives Michael Hiltzik a third life. Remember Hiltzik was reassigned to the Spring Street business beat after being disciplined for hacking into and reading a colleague’s e-mails while in Moscow with the L.A. Times.

Why would ANY employer want this unethical jerk writ[i]ng for them?

. . . .

Hiltzik has received a slap on the wrist AGAIN.

The only special place within the newspaper Flap would give Hiltzik would be OUT THE DOOR.

(All emphasis in original.)

Allah:

If they’re going to go that far, why not just fire him? It smells like the Times recognizes his credibility is shot but doesn’t want to pull the trigger on a guy who won them a Pulitzer — and whose termination would be a regarded by some as a feather in the cap of the blogosphere in general and their bete noire in particular. So you end up with an odd compromise in which Hiltzik is publicly humiliated by the paper even while it reaffirms its association with him. And Patterico gets a scalp he doesn’t want. Bizarre.

I thought suspending his site was sufficient. Not because what he did wasn’t wrong, but because blogging is already too dangerous, as my boss knows only too well. If he’d plagiarized, defamed someone, or invented facts to support his stories, that’d be one thing. Being a wanker in need of an occasional comment-section security blanket is something else. Especially when you’ve already been caught and publicly disciplined by the Times’s own personal wanker police.

Allah and I see this issue similarly. He is correct that I didn’t want a “scalp” out of this.

Captain Ed also has a very sensible reaction:

I never had a high opinion of Hiltzik before the sock puppetry, and have an even lower opinion of him now. However, one has to wonder whether the Times went overboard with its reaction. As the editors state, Hiltzik didn’t break any rules in his column or in his reporting for the newspaper, at least according to the editors. The violations occurred on the Golden State blog and at Patterico’s Pontifications.

It seems to me that killing the blog and suspending Hiltzik would have been sufficient for the violations he committed. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think Hiltzik wrote well enough or posed good enough arguments to warrant his own column anyway, as his silly and ignorant rantings over Hugh Hewitt’s Sitemeter stats proved well enough. If the Times thought so, then they should have just deep-sixed the column for that reason and been honest about it. If they liked Hiltzik’s work on the column, then they should have kept the punishment to the same venue in which the violations occurred.

The message the Times wants to send with this action doesn’t appear very clear to me. Why go through all the hassle to kill his blog and his column, suspend him, and then have his work still appear in their newspaper? Cancelling his blog acknowledges that he has shot his credibility in this arena, and the suspension serves as a financial penalty for embarrassing his newspaper. But canceling his column demonstrates a lack of faith in Hiltzik’s credibility as a columnist — which must then also apply to his work as a reporter. The Times has kneecapped Hiltzik for any other assignment at the Times.

The Times had the right principles in mind when they addressed this situation; they held Hiltzik accountable for his sad and pathetic attempts to invent people who would agree with him. Either they went overboard in their attack on his print work, or they should have fired him outright, and to do the latter would have been completely dishonest. The true punishment for Hiltzik’s foolishness is the knowledge that he made himself into a joke. The Times couldn’t leave it at that and turned him into a tragedy instead.

Ed Driscoll:

The L.A. Times obviously knows the best time to release bad news, which is why they chose today to reveal that they’re suspending Michael Hiltzik for his recurring quadrophenia. . . . I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for real, systemic change from most legacy media organs. At least not until 2014 or so.

Interestingly, the L.A. Times has posted about the issue on . . . a blog! Times opinion guy Matt Welch has this entry about the affair. He calls my reaction in this post “conflicted.” Feel free to go leave a comment.

Dan Riehl:

I’m glad he didn’t lose his job. I imagine this was a tough call for the editors and they did what they felt was required. I also wonder if such a punishment would have been handed out were it a more popular, more widely read columnist.

I still see it as more of a personal failing than a professional one, owing to the nature of his comments to and about himself and his paper. No point in piling on. The Internet can take a toll from people. Often it brings out our very worst. That’s one reason why I opted to blog under my own name.

No doubt I have commented and posted some things over time I regret and might even cringe over now, though not too many. But because I did it as myself I learned from them. I doubt I would have learned anything from those experiences if I hadn’t been forced to own them internally because I was visible from without.

I think that makes a lot of sense.

John Hawkins:

On the upside for Hiltzik, at least they didn’t fire him. Although I have no love for Hiltzik, I think the LA Times really overreacted. A little slap on the wrist and a warning not to do it again would have been plenty of punishment given the minor nature of his offense.

Blue Crab Boulevard:

Hiltzik was caught red-handed using sock puppet identities to make comments on blogs. The Times said in their statement the Hiltzik will be reassigned after the suspension. The statement is disingenuous, though, by missing the central point of what happened here. They phrase it as just an old fashioned ethics issue. But it’s a bit different than what they make it out to be. The odd thing here is they are killing his column and suspending him but say he did nothing wrong with the column or his reporting. So it’s somewhat of an overreaction on the part of the Times’ editors.

Edmund Jenks:

This has been a difficult time for the editors and managers over at the LA Times.

What do you do when one of your Pulitzer Prize winning staff columnists commits a fraud of persona in order to bolster the positions he stakes out in the pursuit of establishing credibility in a New Media medium?

Don Surber:

To Mike Hiltzik, all I can say is bu-bye.

Nice Pulitzer you have there, but bu-bye.

Yes, I know that I agreed with and defended one of your posts (that bloggers are wrong in their analysis of newspaper fortunes) but there is the exit to the airplane, please use it. Now.

Hiltzik crossed a line when under fire at his blog, he deployed several pseudonyms to attack his critics.

I support pseudonyms and anonymous posts because of tradition and an occasional need for such protection. But Hiltzik’s purpose was to deceive.

Romenesko has mentioned the yanking of Hiltzik’s column.

Paul Hogue:

I found the action appropriate within the boundaries of the Times’ ethics guidelines. The action is punitive and most importantly, narrow. It is in relation to this incident only. For better or worse, the Times as an employer can not take broad action against an employee that isn’t warranted by that employee’s actions.

Baquet and Frantz, in my opinion, took the correct action in response to Hiltzik’s behavior.

Darleeneisms:

So, LAT columnist Michael Hiltzik’s unveiled antics have given way to the term “sock puppets.” And the puppet master has been given the smackdown – the LAT is killing the blog, his column and suspending him for a couple of days without pay. But they’re not firing him. Which is good, but I do have some mixed feelings about this whole situation, especially since I’ve had my blog shut down before by the LAT lawyers . . . .

Thus ends the roundup for now.

60 Comments

  1. Sic Semper Sockpuppetus

    Comment by See Dubya (ae518a) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:22 pm

  2. [...] UPDATE: Editors have discontinued his column. He will be reassigned. Details here. [...]

    Pingback by Patterico’s Pontifications » For the Second Time, No Hiltzik Column (421107) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:33 pm

  3. Potterico, you, Hugh Hewitt, Powerline and other right leaning blogs have been under a denial of service attack most of the day–or at least when I try to view them access is denied. Could it be a last gasp of Mike Khoshi and his friends?

    All I can say about l’ affair Hiltzik is that I hope I never see his column or blog again with the intro “Heee’s baaack”.

    Comment by Mike Myers (3a4363) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:38 pm

  4. Wow, a blogger takes down another pompous ass! (Oops a Freudian slip. I mean: takes down a sophisticated, insightful journalist who, unlike bloggers, did nothing more than try to make the world a better place for children and underrepresented minorities).

    What does Masha have to say about this development?

    Comment by Perfect Sense (024110) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:42 pm

  5. A “new frontier”? Yeah, lying is sooooo new age!

    Comment by Patricia (2cc180) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:42 pm

  6. Headline the LA Times would use for this story, if they had any class (or sense of humor) at all:

    Local Man Swallowed Whole By Own Sockpuppet

    Comment by Kent (005e8f) — 4/28/2006 @ 6:58 pm

  7. Although I have not been one of its fans or regular readers, I believe this was an astute, balanced and reasonable business and editorial decision by the LAT.

    It seems to me that the punishment is within the reasonable ambit of “fitting the crime”.

    Comment by Jim Rhoads (vnjagvet) (d3d48a) — 4/28/2006 @ 7:15 pm

  8. I’ve posted reaction at my blog:

    http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com/2006/04/times-suspends-hiltzik-cancels-blog.html

    Love the classic way the TIMES has “buried the news” on a Friday afternoon.

    Hope your DOS attack issue is resolved quickly. Best wishes, Laura

    Comment by Laura (d8da01) — 4/28/2006 @ 7:19 pm

  9. I think the LAT handled this about perfectly. It wasn’t quite a firing offense, but it showed dishonesty. It violated a portion of the Times’ ethics policies.

    That they announced it on a Friday afternoon… people are going to dog them for that? C’mon, people, ease up. They didn’t have to announce *anything*. They could have just quietly had Hiltzik return in whatever capacity they felt appropriate without public announcement. They didn’t do that. Good for them.

    I know Pat’s a little conflicted here. My advice is: Don’t be. Someone who deserves a column will get one, and it will fill Hiltzik’s space. Hiltzik, in return, will have a job, but it’ll presumably be a low-grade assignment.

    I disagree with Hugh Hewitt’s post likening Hiltzik to other Times journalists with the “he just got caught” smear. What Hiltzik did violated The Times’ and journalistic ethics. I don’t think that there are thousands of sock puppets supporting Times’ stories.

    The Times should be respected for its decision.

    Comment by JRM (5e00de) — 4/28/2006 @ 7:49 pm

  10. Michael Hiltzik Watch: Golden State Column and Blog Discontinued for Ethics Violations

    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.

    Trackback by FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog (baa0b4) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:08 pm

  11. “They didn’t have to announce *anything*.”

    Sure they did, or some of the paying subscribers they have left (like me) might be cutting off the Times for good… I would have respected the paper’s handling of this a lot more if they hadn’t tried to have it both ways by putting out the word of Hiltzik’s “reassignment” yet doing it at the classic time of the week when bad news is buried, as a newspaper knows better than anyone.

    JMHO — Best wishes, Laura

    Comment by Laura (9f37aa) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:14 pm

  12. [...] Well, not killed. “Grievously wounded,” maybe. [...]

    Pingback by Hot Air » Blog Archive » ‘Twas sock puppets killed the beast (3ca10e) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:15 pm

  13. I am reminded of a Lou Grant episode where one of his reporters committed an ethical violation. Grant didn’t fire him; no, he reassigned him to write about very mundane subject matter. “There’s a guy retiring after 20 years driving a forklift; I bet it would make a good story.”

    I have a feeling that something similar will happen to Mr. Hiltzik when he returns from suspension.

    Will he learn a lesson from this? I doubt it. As Laura masterfully stated, “Unless Hiltzik has suddenly decided to reform, what will his ethical transgression be at his next Times assignment?”

    Comment by Paul (c169e9) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:23 pm

  14. Flap Trackback: Michael Hiltzik Watch: Golden State Column and Blog Discontinued for Ethics Violations

    Flap is having trouble with Patterico’s trackback but it could be that we both use Hosting Matters.

    Flap

    Comment by Flap (e18e4d) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:32 pm

  15. Flap: never fear. I simply must moderate the trackbacks.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:35 pm

  16. I like the description of Patterico as “the Times’s own personal wanker police.”

    Comment by Steve Ely (ff51b4) — 4/28/2006 @ 8:49 pm

  17. Sorry Patrick….

    Flap has never been patient and WordPress trackback doesn’t always work around the blogosphere.

    Captain Ed is one.

    Comment by Flap (e18e4d) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:04 pm

  18. Patrick,

    I think the Times went overboard and have really emasculated Hiltzik for any other assignment he might get after this. I’ve posted about this at my site this evening, but basically I feel that taking his blog away acknowledges his destroyed credibility in this market. Taking his column away implies he has no credibility at all, and if that’s the case then he shouldn’t have a job at that newspaper at all.

    I applaud the Times for their insistence on enforcing their ethics rules, but in this case I think they went too far.

    None of this is any reflection on your work in this case, Patrick. You did an excellent job in uncovering the phoniness of Hiltzik. Don’t worry about the results; Hiltzik practically begged for punishment from Tribune.

    Comment by Captain Ed (2025bc) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:18 pm

  19. So far I find your comment and Allah’s the most persuasive, Ed. But they are similar to what I have been saying for days.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:25 pm

  20. I am disapointed in the “pile on” of some bloggers. What the guy did was wrong, and he lost both his online and print column as a result. That some are now faulting the paper for the “timing” is kinda sad to me. Hell, I run a business myself, and would not take out a full page ad to announce I had to “reign in” a wayward employee. No business does that. Where shall I get my news when the blogosphere becomes as bloodthirsty and unreasonable as the MSM? In my opinion, the punishment fits the crime, end of story. I realize I sound naive, but really, there are a LOT of people like me that truly hope we can count on the mainstream webfolks to be fair..maybe thats asking too much, only time will tell.

    Sincerely,

    George Durham
    Durham4@comcast.net

    Comment by George (4f171f) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:30 pm

  21. Patterico,

    Just re-read the entire post and comments. Just so you know, your heading implies that you are disappointed that sock puppet did NOT get fired, and judging from your comments, that is not your opinion. Nor mine. Just a heads up that you may be advancing a position you don’t particularly want to.

    Sincerely,

    George Durham
    Durham4@comcast.net

    Comment by George (4f171f) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:44 pm

  22. As mentioned, the LAT should be commended for handling this in an open manner.

    Their online coverage didn’t include the fact that the suspension is without pay… just that he’s serving a suspension prior to reassignment. I think that’s an interesting detail and may inspire more pro-Hiltzik letters to the Times.

    Also, yesterday’s letters in E&P were effective… the most concentrated way to reach editors and reporters across the country. Everything else has been linked through blogs and news sites. Ultimately, the paper’s reputation and viability rests on the work of its employees.

    Patterico, your name is part of j-school studies now. Informally at least and in textbooks soon, I would expect.

    Comment by Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:44 pm

  23. Don’t fret too long over the demotion and suspension MH is suffering. He was a fundamentally dishonest journalist, imo. His recent attack of Hewitt being the most recent example.

    Anyway, my sense is that Tribune already had read him the riot act over the prior email incidents. MH went and misused another form of electronic communication. If I am the boss of a guy who was severely reprimanded and that same guy then flouted the rules regarding electronic communication, I would fire him.

    That guy would have demonstrated a complete and utter disregard for me, my managerial associates, and the organization itself. I simply could not abide giving such a guy another chance.

    Comment by Ed (a9da92) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:46 pm

  24. Just re-read the entire post and comments. Just so you know, your heading implies that you are disappointed that sock puppet did NOT get fired, and judging from your comments, that is not your opinion. Nor mine. Just a heads up that you may be advancing a position you don’t particularly want to.

    The headline simply states the facts.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 9:49 pm

  25. Patterico,

    “The headline simply states the facts.”

    As do many AP and NYT headlines that we rightfully condemn and scorn. Crap, how the hell am I on this side of the argument? I am NOT defending said idiot! I am just saying that you know as well as I do that how a headline read dictates the tone. IMO, you imply that sock puppet should have been fired. If that is your opinion, say so.

    Like I said in my first post, I am just wanting the Right to be right. I am not attacking anyone, maybe because I don’t want to spend my time defending?

    Comment by George (4f171f) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:18 pm

  26. George:

    For anyone following this affair, the headline should convey right away what the result is.

    My headline:

    Hiltzik Column Discontinued; He Won’t Be Fired

    And the facts of the episode are: his column has been discontinued, and he won’t be fired.

    Plenty of people on my site have said he should be fired. I have said he should not. It’s a controversy. Now the paper has decided that he won’t be. (I’m glad.) And I set forth this fact in the headline. Because it has been a controversy.

    If you read something into it that’s not there, that’s not my problem.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:25 pm

  27. I understand you’re not trying to fight with me, but honestly, I just said what happened.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:29 pm

  28. Hiltzik Column Discontinued; He Won’t Be Castrated

    THEN George might have a point.

    Comment by Jim Treacher (f69e1b) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:45 pm

  29. No schadefreude on my part, either. What we thought was laughable, the LAT converted into an offense subject to discipline. Now they can feel morally correct and superior for enforcing their policy against pseudonymity while they still selectively report and slant stories to suit their bias. And Patterico has no reason to feel bad about this. I have seen much more vehement back and forth on this very site: Patterico vs. Pandagon; Xrlq vs. Tim Lambert; Cathy Seipp vs. Fumento, for some examples. Not to mention the beatings poor Psyberian takes every time he comments here — a few from me. I thought that was part of blogging. Everything is picked apart to the smallest detail. What happened to Mr. Hiltzik is the result of the attitude of the LAT and nothing else. I think that, basically, the LAT suits are not ready to blog yet.

    Comment by nk (4cd0c2) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:46 pm

  30. Yet Matt Welch is blogging about it at the LAT! I think you all should go comment there. Let them know what you think — whatever it is!

    See the post updates for details. Or, you lazy jerks, just go here.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:48 pm

  31. Working The System

    The L.A. Times obviously knows the best time to release bad news, which is why they chose today to reveal that they’re suspending Michael Hiltzik for his recurring quadrophenia. Hugh Hewitt notes:Isn’t it at least a little ironic that the…

    Trackback by Ed Driscoll.com (47121e) — 4/28/2006 @ 10:55 pm

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

    Pingback by Patterico’s Pontifications » Tell L.A. Times Editors Whether You Think They Handled the Hiltzik Matter Properly (421107) — 4/28/2006 @ 11:03 pm

  33. Hey, Patterico, I hate to say this, but I think the LA Times’ response was firm, measured, fair, and dare I add, well-reasoned.

    It fits smack in the range of remedies I consider appropriate. I think it’s a good one.

    Comment by Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2) — 4/28/2006 @ 11:26 pm

  34. Go leave them a comment.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/28/2006 @ 11:28 pm

  35. Just did (a slightly expanded form of the above)… I’ll see if it pops up later. I’ve very much enjoyed both sparring with and learning from you. I’m still totally curious what you think about the Diane Sawyer child protection incident.

    Comment by Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2) — 4/28/2006 @ 11:40 pm

  36. I’m going to add something a bit strange. I hope (and it will probably just remain a hope) that Michael Hiltzik develops… a personal blog.

    Maybe not even a political one, although that would be fine too.

    If he chooses humility even at this late stage, then confidently moves forward toward advancing his ideas, whatever they may be, he may gain a following for his newfound forthrightness and the fact that he has adequately paid for his transgression. And naturally, with his views, he will have some people who agree with him.

    As others have said, at least he’s not guilty of plagiarism.

    While he may just choose to shy away from the Internet, I’d encourage him to cinch the saddle tighter and step in it again. He’s not the first person to ever do something stupid on the net (not the first person on this page and not the first person in this comment!). His biggest mistake was doing it while working for the LA Times.

    Now that his discipline has been decided and the public has had a chance to form its opinions, he should pick himself up and move forward.

    Rush Limbaugh, a man many respect, did his 3-hour radio show today with his normal aplomb and good cheer… then, in a deal worked out between his attorney, Roy Black, and Florida prosecutors, he turned himself in, was arrested and charged with a single count of prescription fraud, was released on bond, and has promised to continue his physician supervised drug addiction treatment regimen for the next 18-months, at which time, prosecutors will drop the charge.

    He showed humility after a personal failing and challenge and then he moved forward with confidence. Michael Hiltzik should learn from his intellectual enemy.

    Comment by Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2) — 4/29/2006 @ 12:00 am

  37. Agreeing with George a little on the sound of the word fire. Next to a negative (won’t), it does sound like a cliffhanger. Maybe -

    Hiltzik Suspended Without Pay; Column Discontinued

    Comment by Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c) — 4/29/2006 @ 1:04 am

  38. 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.

    OK maybe I’m misunderstanding this or am wrong about what I thought I saw.

    Was there only a single comment posted by Hiltzif under his pseudonym? I thought there were more than one, and if there were what is this “single comment on his blog” stuff?

    Do I have that wrong?

    Comment by Dwilkers (a1687a) — 4/29/2006 @ 4:28 am

  39. I think he posted only once as Mikekoshi on his own site — on one of his first posts. He posted here as Mikekoshi 18 times, attacking and mocking me and other Hiltzik enemies. And he also posted twice on his own site as Michael Hiltzik, praising Mikekoshi’s comments here.

    He posted here and on Independent sources as Nofanofcablecos.

    And he posted as Mikekoshi on Political Animal, Brad DeLong, and L.A. Observed.

    All links are in my original post.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/29/2006 @ 5:54 am

  40. Captain Ed wrote:

    I think the Times went overboard and have really emasculated Hiltzik for any other assignment he might get after this. I’ve posted about this at my site this evening, but basically I feel that taking his blog away acknowledges his destroyed credibility in this market. Taking his column away implies he has no credibility at all, and if that’s the case then he shouldn’t have a job at that newspaper at all.

    To me, this means that Mr Hiltzik has been fired. Captain Ed is right: taking away the column implies that his credibility is gone, and “reassigning” him means, in effect, that he starts from the bottom again. Can you imagine Mr Hiltzik on the police beat?

    Of course, reassigned does not mean fired. But it does mean that Mr Hiltzik is going to be under pressure, from his own pride at the very least, to resign.

    Comment by Dana (9f37aa) — 4/29/2006 @ 6:14 am

  41. VN:

    Agreeing with George a little on the sound of the word fire. Next to a negative (won’t), it does sound like a cliffhanger. Maybe -

    Hiltzik Suspended Without Pay; Column Discontinued

    Do we know it was without pay?

    My initial headline, up for only a few minutes, said: “L.A. Times Discontinues Hiltzik’s Column, Suspends Him, Will Reassign Him.” I changed it because I thought it was too long and didn’t convey the essence of what happened in a snappy manner.

    I never intended to express any disappointment that the man wasn’t fired. I have argued against that for days, for crying out loud.

    Comment by Patterico (156eed) — 4/29/2006 @ 6:20 am

  42. The LAT reaction seems to me to be “trying too hard” to make a point. I don’t see a learning curve in this for either the LAT or Mr. Hiltzik, both of whom are likely thinking that they are mutual victims of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

    It’s really time for a bit of introspection on the part of both “perpetrators” and their roles in providing information and expressing their opinions in the public square. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen to date, not a very likely prospect.

    Comment by Harry Arthur (b318a5) — 4/29/2006 @ 6:52 am

  43. A “violation” of “journalistic ethics” – now there’s a twenty-first century oxymoron for you.

    Comment by Harry Arthur (b318a5) — 4/29/2006 @ 6:54 am

  44. [...] Patterico has an excellent round-up of the Hiltzik’s Los Angeles Tmes reassignment: Hiltzik Column Discontinued; He Won’t Be Fired [...]

    Pingback by FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » Michael Hiltzik Watch: Golden State Column and Blog Discontinued for Ethics Violations - The Round-Up (baa0b4) — 4/29/2006 @ 8:33 am

  45. Cross posted at latimes website:

    Hiltzik willingly shed his credibility, and for what? To get the satisfaction of delivering some low blows? If he had come to the discussion, such as the one on cable companies, and identified himself as a Times columnist who had researched the issue, I would have thought “great – this is someone who may have a much greater understanding of the issue”. Instead he chose to open with “Boy, are you guys stupid” under a pseudonym. And to the blogger’s credit, he still took Hiltzik’s argument seriously!

    Sidebar: Yes Patterico, I know – it’s the sock puppetry, not the pseudonyms.

    This whole business makes Hiltzik look cowardly and adolescent. Attitudes like his dripped from the pages of the Times, culminating with the astounding “pseudo-journalists” rant from fromer editor James Carroll. The Times is administering some bitter medicine, but it’s needed if they are to win back subscribers – like me.

    Comment by TakeFive (22a4f7) — 4/29/2006 @ 9:11 am

  46. The big picture: Patterico has definitely stated in numerous posts that firing was not the goal. I think the initial headline including ‘he won’t be fired’ is a quick, snappy newsbite but many new readers are joining in this week. Unless people know how you feel, it reads as though he won’t be fired, as opposed to he should be fired. (In tone only; not in reality.)

    This micro-view of words is good for an office setting but it’s certainly one of the drawbacks of the Internet.

    Hiltzik’s arrogance likely is a permanent condition. Someone posted above that he may be reassigned to police stories. Now that would be scary. I would suggest taking him out of the non-fiction stories and having him work in the Food section.

    The big picture is the focus of your work. You accomplished much this week and I really do feel that journalists are going to absorb this story. For those with a superiority streak and sense of entitlement, your work may serve as a lesson or warning. And that is not to post under different names, etc.

    The Update link at the end of the story might have created a time delay. Kevin Roderick posts text of the staff memo from Editor Dean Baquet: “In addition, we are suspending Mike without pay for a period of time.”

    Overall, it’s encouraging to see the LAT respond to this behavior.

    Comment by Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c) — 4/29/2006 @ 10:40 am

  47. Hiltzik will ultimately make lemonade out of this.

    Somewhere else. Sometime soon.

    Mike Barnicle is a columnist for the New York Daily News and host of a daily radio program on WTKK-FM in Boston. He is a frequent guest — and occasional guest host on “Hardball.”

    Don’t underestimate the boomerang effect.

    Comment by steve (6f7d83) — 4/29/2006 @ 1:24 pm

  48. [...] As you probably know by now, Patterico got results. Not necessarily the results he would have wanted, but results nonetheless. Patterico’s one-time nemesis, L.A. Times Columnist/blogger/sock puppet Michael Hiltzik has been suspended, and his column and blog terminated, as a result of the infamous sock puppet incident. While some (read: me) might argue that the Tribune Co. should have canned Hiltzik years ago simply for being an asshat, apparently asshattery is not a hanging offense among L.A. Times journalists. Posting comments under pseudonyms, however, is. Per the editors’ note: 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. [...]

    Pingback by damnum absque injuria » On Anonymity in Blogland (38c04c) — 4/29/2006 @ 2:08 pm

  49. I think the management’s decisions were about right. They need to send messages to the troops about what is/is not allowed and about how strict or tolerant of mistakes the punishment system is. Putting him on the police beat will be seen as fair by his coworkers.

    Comment by TCO (274edc) — 4/29/2006 @ 3:30 pm

  50. TCO, I mentioned the Food section as a possible destination. I thought he could whip up a little humble pie …

    Comment by Vermont Neighbor (a9ae2c) — 4/29/2006 @ 4:08 pm

  51. The fact that Jim Treacher responded to my point, however silly my point may have been has simply made my day! Seriously, I need a screenshot! Thank you Mr. Treacher!

    And I think perhaps I did read something into the headline that was not there, and for that, I apologize.

    Great blog Patterico, and superb work on this incident.

    George Durham

    Comment by George (4f171f) — 4/29/2006 @ 7:47 pm

  52. The L.A. Times’ reaction, IMO, is the correct one. It was designed to force Hiltzik to either start again from the bottom rung (covering school board meetings or something) or leave. It’s now up to Hiltzik to examine his employment options. I’m sure he will take time during his non-paid suspension to see if he can find something somewhere else Otherwise, he’ll be sitting at a suburban school board meeting with all those kids doing their internships at the L.A. Times. :)

    Comment by sharon (fecb65) — 4/30/2006 @ 9:57 am

  53. Has it occurred to any of us that this policy the Times has now publicly proclaimed could turn around to bite one of our own? Not all LAT reporters are MSM liberal bleeding-hearts. Many, perhaps even most, but not all. And some of those who don’t fit the mold down on Spring Street have also made postings on blogs and other open sites on the Internet without using their real names. Postings that may cause some managerial consternation if a full and detailed investigation, including professional-grade IP tracing, is done. We — meaning you Patrick — may have opened a bit of a Pandora’s box…

    Comment by Balance_the_Scales (12815c) — 4/30/2006 @ 12:31 pm

  54. Yahoo news picked up the Hiltzik story.

    Comment by DRJ (3c8cd6) — 4/30/2006 @ 12:36 pm

  55. One has to ask from this incident what merits a firing offense at the LAT.

    Last year, the paper canned Eric Slater over one story. Sure, the story was wrong from start to finish and very likely could have been fabricated, but in the end, Slater lost his job over one story.

    This is Hiltzik’s second large-scale screw up. At many smaller papers, as well as 99 percent of the businesses in the country, he would have been let go the moment he got caught hacking into co-workers’ e-mails.

    The fact he didn’t get canned is undoubtedly due in great part to the Pulitzer he won that is now propping up the pool table in the conservative blogosphere lounge. But it makes one wonder. Does Hiltzik have to kill somebody before he gets fired?

    Maybe, maybe not. Michael Isikoff did kill people with his bogus Koran flushing story, yet he still gets paid.

    Comment by The Hound (478174) — 4/30/2006 @ 1:55 pm

  56. At 12:37 P.M. on April 28, I posted the following on one of your threads:

    “My prediction (is there a betting pool?): The Dog Trainer “accepts” his resignation in a news release issued after 5:30 P.M. today (the best news hole it can find).

    Comment by Kneave Riggall — 4/28/2006 @ 12:37 pm”

    Wahoo! I win! What’s the prize?

    Comment by Kneave Riggall (e3f7c1) — 5/2/2006 @ 2:19 pm

  57. [...] Unfortunately, many people that should know better don’t. [...]

    Pingback by Pundit Review » Blog Archive » Tom Reilly for governor campaign steps in it, again (453dbc) — 5/9/2006 @ 6:39 pm

  58. [...] 1. Armstrong is engaging in sock-puppetry, which is annoying and childish, and got LATimes reporter Hiltzik in hot water for doing so. [...]

    Pingback by Is Jerome Armstrong Vis Numar? at The Politburo Diktat (4aa448) — 7/2/2006 @ 9:41 pm

  59. [...] commenting anonymously on his own work to ’set the record straight,’ and the L.A. Times reassigned Michael Hiltzik for posting anonymous comments on a District Attorney’s blog. Hiltzik was reprimanded for [...]

    Pingback by web.aan.org » The Golden Rule of Commenting for Newspaper Employees (dba976) — 5/16/2007 @ 7:47 am

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    Comment by alcoholism treatment center (c7a4ea) — 11/29/2007 @ 3:14 pm

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