Editor and Publisher mentions the Hiltzik suspension in this clueless article. In keeping with Big Media’s consistent misunderstanding of the facts, the Editor and Publisher article completely
fails to mention downplays the reason Hiltzik’s use of pseudonyms was so dishonest: because he used them to shill for himself (or, as we bloggers say, he used them as “sock puppets”). From the article:
This brings us to the case of Michael Hiltzik, the L. A. Times columnist who recently lost his “Golden State” blog after it became apparent that he had been posting comments on his own and other blogs under pseudonyms. The paper said in a editors’ note that Hiltzik’s blog had been suspended because he has violated The Times’s ethical guidelines, which “require editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public.”
In posting to his own blog under a fake name, Hiltzik was clearly abusing the trust the paper had placed in him, and the Times has a right to protect the reputation that its brand depends on. But writing praise about yourself in pseudonym-ed comments is like a sitcom using a laugh-track; pretty lame, but not ultimately harmful. It just implies that Hiltzik isn’t confident enough in his own writing to let it speak for itself (surprising for a Pulitzer-winning journalist).
But even if he himself hadn’t written the fake comments, he could as easily have gotten a friend to write similar comments under a fake name, thus sidestepping the writer-dealing-with-the-public problem. Whose “crime” would it be then?
In posting to the other blogs — outside his L.A. Times home — under false names, Hiltzik’s “crime” is even less damning. Surely Hiltzik wasn’t the only person posting to these blogs under fake names. And in posting these false comments, was Hiltzik acting on behalf of the paper or simply acting as a citizen of the Internet whose right it is to engage in this kind of anonymous discourse?
I doubt that Hiltzik would be bound by the Times’ ethical guidelines for content in an online dating profile. Does his association with the paper automatically disallow him from fully participating in this not-totally-real aspect of the Internet? If so, then he’s likely a poorer blogger for it.
Sheesh. Bloggers do not require sock puppets to make their arguments. The author of this piece is
obviously unaware of very flippant about the way Hiltzik used his pseudonyms as cheerleaders for his own arguments, and as attack dogs set upon his Internet enemies. Given his fundamental misunderstanding of Hiltzik’s transgression, I’m guessing that the author read about the controversy in the mainstream media, rather than on my blog (which he fails to link to).
L.A. Times editors must be thrilled at the way this is all being spun.
Isn’t Big Media great? Whenever you really know something about the facts of a particular story, that’s when they seem to screw it up worse than ever. And every person who experiences this thinks to himself: wow, it’s a good thing they don’t screw up other stories the way they screwed up this one.
UPDATE: I have corrected the post in response to a commenter, who notes that the piece actually does mention that Hiltzik “wr[ote] praise about [him]self in pseudonym-ed comments.” I had missed this even after reading the piece twice earlier, albeit rather quickly both times. What I had noticed was that the author seemed to think Hiltzik needed the ability to shill for himself:
Does his association with the paper automatically disallow him from fully participating in this not-totally-real aspect of the Internet? If so, then he’s likely a poorer blogger for it.
What in the world?? Hiltzik is a poorer blogger for the inability to use phony sock puppets as a chorus of cheerleaders and defenders?
This author is a bigger idiot than I’d thought. He knows what Hiltzik did, and still defends it as necessary and a blogger’s prerogative.
No wonder I misunderstood him the first time.