Patterico's Pontifications

5/6/2006

Sock Puppets and the L.A. Times

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik,Humor — Patterico @ 3:29 pm

This is fun: if you do a Technorati search for the term “Patterico,”, the results page contains sponsored links for sock puppets — and for a subscription to the L.A. Times.

Here’s a screenshot in case this changes (thanks to Allah for converting it from a bitmap file)

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Internet Deception That *Should* Get You Fired

Filed under: Hiltzik,Media Bias — Patterico @ 12:00 pm

If Michael Hiltzik’s Internet deception didn’t merit firing or significant discipline (and I believe it didn’t), then what kind of Internet deception from a jouralist does?

This kind.

(Thanks to Ace.)

5/3/2006

People Are Awfully Confused About That Thing We Didn’t Explain Very Well

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 7:00 am

I’m trying to wind down my posts about Michael Hiltzik. But I note that Cathy Seipp has also heard the rumor floated by Nikki Finke that Hiltzik will be reassigned to “sports investigations.” It’s still a rumor, of course, but I find rumors to be more credible coming from Cathy than from Finke.

One of Cathy’s commenters has this tongue-in-cheek speculation about Hiltzik’s first assignment.

In all seriousness, I wish Mr. Hiltzik good luck at his next assignment, whatever it is.

By the way, Cathy also notes (as did Kevin Roderick the other day) editor Baquet’s befuddlement that the crowd at the book fair didn’t seem to understand why Hiltzik had lost his column:

The Hiltzik affair may be a hot media story, but one that probably leaves average Times subscribers scratching their heads. “I think our readers representative said that maybe 20 people wrote in about Hiltzik,” Baquet said, adding that a lot of readers may be awfully confused by what happened to Hiltzik’s business section column, which was cancelled late Friday afternoon.

You mean readers don’t all read the little Editor’s Notes they publish in a small box on Page A2?

As commenter Bradley J. Fikes said in a comment at Cathy’s blog:

Going way out on a limb here, but that confusion just might be related to the Times’ nearly non-existent coverage of the issue.

Fikes has been saying that the paper ought to publish Baquet’s explanation for the reassignment, as explained to Roderick the other day: that he couldn’t have a business columnist unable to credibly write about duplicity. Perhaps they could publish some variant of this passage from an internal staff memo, which didn’t make it into the Editor’s Note about Hiltzik:

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.

Mr. Baquet, wouldn’t publishing this explanation be better than leaving your readers “awfully confused” about the reasons things are happening at your newspaper?

5/1/2006

Baquet: Hiltzik Could No Longer Write Credibly About Duplicity

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 6:58 am

Kevin Roderick has an interesting post about Hiltzik:

Michael Hiltzik came up, of course, during my interview of Los Angeles Times Editor Dean Baquet on Sunday at the Times Festival of Books. He beat me to the punch, alluding to the controversy as soon as the discussion turned to the paper’s online struggles. The bottom line is that Baquet called Hiltzik’s undoing a professional tragedy, but said he knew immediately that—regardless of what the blogosphere thought—Hiltzik’s use of pseudonyms to post favorable comments about himself and disparage his critics violated Times ethics. Baquet said he wasn’t certain sure how to punish Hiltzik until he read about Ken Lay’s trial last week and thought how the Enron saga would make great fodder for a business columnist. He realized then, Baquet said, that his business columnist—Hiltzik—could no longer write credibly about duplicity in the business world. There’s no place, he said, for dishonesty under the Times banner.

I’m not sure very many people in the audience other than the dozen or so Times staffers and a handful of bloggers (Cathy Seipp posed the first question from the audience, about the Hiltzik affair) had the slightest clue what we were talking about. Here’s a link to Friday’s news that Hiltzik’s column and blog were discontinued. For what it’s worth, almost every Times staffer and journalist I talked to about it this weekend thought Hiltzik was lucky to keep his job.

Go to Kevin’s post for the links and more Hiltzik reaction.

More Hiltzik in the Media — Including Who *Hasn’t* Run a Story . . .

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Hiltzik — Patterico @ 6:33 am

The media coverage of Michael Hiltzik’s suspension and loss of his column, which I surveyed below in this post, continues with a brief and unilluminating article in the Chicago Tribune.

Other than the brief Editor’s Note from the other day, no story on this issue has appeared in the L.A. Times. Nothing has appeared to explain the background of how Hiltzik’s pseudonyms came to light.

This means that the very readers who are going to lose his column are also the people who are most left in the dark as to why.

Doesn’t that seem odd?

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.

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