I said this in a comment early this morning, in response to someone’s suggestion that Michael Hiltzik’s sock-puppet antics could be a “firing offense”:
The idea of it being a “firing offense” is ludicrous, in my opinion. As I say: the newspaper need not get involved. This is simply a matter of credibility within the blogosphere, nothing more. I think that the only thing necessary is for Hiltzik to simply acknowledge the error in a forthright manner and stop doing it.
Even after his ridiculous defense of himself this morning, I still believe this. And I thought this was worth saying in a post as well as a comment.
I think Hiltzik has conducted himself in a classless manner throughout this affair, right up through his dishonest and insulting defense of himself this morning. And Hugh Hewitt makes a good case that Hiltzik has technically violated the paper’s code of ethics.
But you know what? That code of ethics is a joke. I bet there’s hardly a reporter or columnist at the L.A. Times who has always lived up to it.
I think it’s enough that he’s embarrassed. He doesn’t need to be fired, or even disciplined, in my view. I think the suspension of the blog, perhaps even only temporarily, is punishment enough.
I had hoped all along that he might simply learn a lesson from this. Perhaps naively, I continue to hold out the hope that he will express genuine contrition, show that he understands why this was a problem, and simply pledge not to do it again. I think if he does that, the paper should let it go.
UPDATE: Man, Armed Liberal just nails it here. Let me quote him at length:
I’m human enough to want to crow, but mature enough not to, to be a bit concerned that the damage to Hiltzik’s career will be more serious than would be justified by this, and to be very concerned that the Times will use this as an excuse to step away from the baby steps toward interactivity that it has taken in the last year or so.
As to Hiltzik, I’m not sure what to say, so I’ll say little. He’s at best been ungracious, we disagree about policy pretty significantly, and most important, he’s tone-deaf. From the reviews of his books, he’s a good writer and a smart guy, and I genuinely hope that he’s smart enough to absorb the lesson and come out the other side a better person and a better journalist.
. . . .
Transparency, respect, an interest in a mutually beneficial dialog with one’s audience. That’s the future of mass media.
Arrogance, secrecy, and a death-grip on the megaphone is the past.
The Times will eventually embrace the former; I genuinely hope that future is now. The form of dialog without the substance – a willingness to talk and listen – is, as this episode has shown, not going to get them there.
We, in the blogging community, can encourage them by not crowing, not attacking the Times or Hiltzik, and instead trying to encourage them down the path toward their – and our – future.