Patterico's Pontifications

4/22/2006

Masha Is Also “workingjournalist”? — Plus, Adventures in MySpace

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:06 am



Okay, as Dave Barry says, I swear I’m not making this up. I’m just going to tell you the facts and let you make up your mind.

I posted earlier about L.A. Times commenter “Masha,” who today posted two comments supportive of Hiltzik on this blog, using L.A. Times computers. The comments came from two Times IP addresses. One was 144.142.21.5, which is registered to lye1.latimes.com. The other was 144.142.21.6, which is registered to lye2.latimes.com.

In a later post I noted that, in December, Masha had used a single non-L.A. Times IP address to post six comments on this blog, all of which were appended to a post of mine about a December interview that Hugh Hewitt had done with Michael Hiltzik. Masha called me and the Power Line guys “fascists” and otherwise frothed at the mouth against conservatives. The IP address that Masha used to make these comments was a Comcast address, and remained constant across all six comments, which were posted over the course of about 48 hours.

I have used Comcast as a cable provider and I believe that they provide static IP addresses — in other words, IP addresses that don’t change. (When Julian Sanchez busted John Lott for using a sock puppet, the tipoff was that Lott had used the same Comcast IP address as his sock puppet had used.) [UPDATE: See this comment for a quibble with my assumption.]

So I thought: hey, why not plug in that Comcast IP address into my search engine and see who has commented using that IP?

What came up was the six December comments from Masha, and two more comments from someone calling themselves “workingjournalist.” These comments are from January 3 and 4 of this year, and are appended to my 2005 Dog Trainer Year in Review post, in which I criticized a year’s worth of the newspaper’s sins in a single post. The first comment from “workingjournalist” read as follows:

Um, gee, Mr. Patterico, out of curiosity, have you ever covered even one government agency, and translated its actions into useful information for the average voter? I see that you’re very interested in seeing to it that your news agencies aren’t being too nice to Democrats, but I never see coverage in your blog of anything that would help me, as a voter, know whether my elected officials who are paid with my tax dollars, are doing their jobs. Why is that? Do you want good government? Or are you just out to kill what’s left of the only governnment watchdog we have?

and the second says:

Neither you nor this site are truly interested in whether the media or the LAT are biased. If you were, you’d note the many, many articles that, day in and day out, leave readers more informed than they were before. You’re interested in sucking up to power. If you had your way, nothing this administration did would ever be questioned, by the press or anyone else. You believe there is such a thing as a benign dictatorship. Talk about moonbats. Keep it up, and maybe you’ll get the authoritarian regime you deserve.

The e-mail address provided by “workingjournalist” was “princesss_sparkle@hotmail.coom.” That’s a correct spelling, with the extra “s” and the extra “o.” And what was the e-mail address that Masha used, both in her December comments as well as her comments from today? You already know the answer: princesss_sparkle@hotmail.coom. Extra “s,” and extra “o.”

Why am I posting about this? Two reasons.

First, I think this helps answer the question of whether loony lefty “Masha” is actually a, well, working journalist at the paper — as opposed to, say, a janitor who got access to someone’s computer. It sure looks like we have a working L.A. Times journalist who called me a fascist on my blog.

That’s okay. Masha thinks I’m a fascist, and Hiltzik has compared me to a Stalinist. I figure I’m somewhere in between, but I’m content to let readers judge for themselves, including Hiltzik and Masha.

My second point is the more significant one, and it goes to the silly way that the L.A. Times is characterizing Hiltzik’s offense.

Here’s the thing. Masha/workingjournalist may have extreme leftist opinions, and she is clearly expressing them using a pseudonym. But unless she is Hiltzik — which I doubt — she is not guilty of the sin that Hiltzik got busted for. She hasn’t used her varying identities to praise and defend each other. “Masha” didn’t talk about how pretty, rich, and powerful “workingjournalist” is. And “workingjournalist” didn’t post a comment saying, “Yeah, Masha’s right! I think you’re a fascist too, Patterico!”

The bottom line is: in my view, Masha/workingjournalist is entitled to express her opinions, whether she is using a pseudonym or not. I really could not care less that this person wants to come on my site and criticize me using a pseudonym. That happens here day in and day out. I’d prefer that she be honest and tell people that she works for the paper she is defending, but it’s not a huge deal. All she is doing is using a pseudonym — and to me, that’s fine.

Hiltzik’s sock puppets, praising and defending each other — that’s a different story entirely. His real offense was using mutually admiring sock puppets and being dishonest and silly.

But the L.A. Times is claiming that Hiltzik’s offense was not identifying himself as a member of the paper. Which, as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out, is a stupid indictment of his behavior — and one that Masha/workingjournalist is apparently guilty of (unless this is all some kind of incredibly clever trap that the newspaper has laid for me today).

So, unless “Masha” is really Hiltzik — and I have no reason to believe that she is — then it now appears that we have another Times journalist employing multiple names, including at least one pseudonym, to comment on blogs. Because “workingjournalist” and “Masha” sure seem to be the same person, and Masha posted from Times computers today. And she has clearly used a pseudonym to comment on a blog, because her fanatical ravings wouldn’t come across too well if she identified herself as a journalist for the paper.

But so what? Is this really what The Times considers a punishable offense? Because if it is, that’s ridiculous. Is there anyone here who wants to see The Times start seizing employees’ computers to find out who Masha/workingjournalist is? Do they want to scare their staffers to the point where they feel like they can never comment on a blog again, because God help them if they misspell their name?

That is the result of enforcing a strict no-tolerance policy against ever using pseudonyms in any context.

I understand why they have the rule. They don’t want reporters calling up people and interviewing them by pretending to be someone other than a reporter. That’s fine.

But their policy has to bend a little to allow employees to comment on blogs using pseudonyms. As long as they’re not silly Hiltzik-style sock puppets, there really should be no problem with this.

Which just makes the point clear: using a pseudonym, by itself, without more, is not a transgression on the Internet, and that is not what Hiltzik should be investigated or punished for. It’s a phony offense. Even if The Times has a policy against it, they need to recognize that companies have lots of policies about lots of things that get violated all the time. Use common sense, Times editors.

Again, his real offense is not the stated one, using a pseudonym, but rather making an idiot of himself by using sock puppets that praise each other.

But I’m not sure whether the paper’s ethics policy covers this clearly.

And this is part of the explanation for why I don’t want Hiltzik fired or disciplined any further. Look, if I had busted a guy for blatant plagiarism, and if the plagiarist got fired, I’d see it as a sad thing for his family — but a completely necessary thing for the newspaper. Because everybody knows that plagiarism is a firing offense.

Hiltzik’s transgression, while dishonest, was dishonesty of the goofy sort. He has to have known that this was wrong — but if it was a firing offense, he may not have known that. Because not everyone agrees that it’s a firing offense. I don’t. Allahpundit(koshi) doesn’t. And some of the rest of you don’t. And that means that Hiltzik may not have seen it that way when he did it.

I just don’t see it as the same thing as plagiarism. And when the offense in question is this odd, and occurs in a setting like the blogosphere that is so alien to newspaper people — I just don’t see the value in seeking to impose the harshest possible sanctions on the guy.

I hope that the episode with Masha helps some readers understand this.

P.S. By the way, the episode gets even weirder than I have described — and this is where I am signing off. I’ll let you do the research and tell me what it means. Take that “princesss_sparkle@hotmail.coom” e-mail address and plug it into Google. It’ll ask you if you mean “princesss_sparkle@hotmail.com” (no extra “o”), so tell it okay — that’s what Masha probably meant to enter, right? That leads you to a search with unexplainable results. (You may have to go to a cached page to find the “princesss” address.) What the hell it all means, I have no idea. I’m not sure I want to know.

Is this a sting? Is someone testing the limits of what I can discover? Am I being baited? Or is this just bizarre?

I don’t know what to make of it. I report, you decide.

P.P.S. Okay, I took down the link in the postscript, even though it was only to Google results. Basically, a cached version of the link appears to show some teenager’s MySpace page, and someone using that princesss_sparkle@hotmail.com e-mail address leaves a message for the teenager. You just feel like you’re entering the Twilight Zone. Like I say, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence (even with the extra “s”), or what. Anyway, a couple of commenters objected to the link being there, and maybe they’re right, so I took it down. You can just do the Google search yourself, if you really want to.

86 Responses to “Masha Is Also “workingjournalist”? — Plus, Adventures in MySpace”

  1. Great detective work these last couple days, and the same goes for here. Just one thing I wanted to mention. I have Comcast as an Internet provider, and they actually do not have static IP addresses. Pretty close, however. If you stay connected all the time (fairly common with high-speed cable access), your computer will renew the IP address a certain time period before Comcast would expire it. So, assuming no long-term outages (I think once an IP address is granted it’s “yours” for 48 hours or so), you have a fairly static IP address. But not completely.

    Eric Fleming (a10b09)

  2. You’re understating it. Hiltzik’s real offense isn’t being silly and making himself look like a fool.

    It’s inventing people who agree with him. There is no difference between a columnist doing that and a newspaper inventing poll numbers… say making it 42% instead of 26%.

    It’s the same thing. It’s trying to sway public opinion and win debates by being dishonest.

    That is a firing offense, Mr. Frey.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  3. If “trying to sway public opinion and win debates by being dishonest” is a firing offense, I can think of a few heads that should go on the chopping block before Hiltzik’s.

    Patterico (156eed)

  4. Misstating something is one thing. Lying indeed is a problem.

    But inventing people who supposedly agree with your argument is simply a serious offense.

    Mr. Frey, do you use that argument at your trials?

    Yes, he punched the man and broke his nose, but at least he’s not a murdering scumbag like the guy I prosecuted last week, so don’t discipline him.

    Have any of your closing statements resembled that?

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  5. Personally I don’t care if they fire the guy or choose another form of discipline (taking into account his serious misuse of his coworkers’ email accounts by stealing their passwords) and choose a lesser sanction.

    But you’ve made the case that he shouldn’t be disciplined. I think that’s a stretch.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  6. Darn, no word from Masha lately. Masha is exhibiting the same journalist courage the LA Times showed when it courageously refused to publish the Muhammad cartoons.

    Perfect Sense (024110)

  7. Pseudonyms OK but …

    Patterico – clearly bored on a Friday night – has identified another pseudonymous LA Times journalist. Like he says pseudonymity per se is not a crime. In fact it can be a good idea and so, likewise, is the fact that the journalist posted with a not …

    L'Ombre de l'Olivier (59ce3a)

  8. Patterico:

    Hey, I’m with you on the point that Hiltzik’s idiocy is not a firing offense… the LA Times would fire him for what — being foolish and dishonest?

    That’s like firing someone off the garbage truck because he smells bad.

    Dafydd (who canceled his LAT subscription years and years ago)

    Dafydd (6e94cd)

  9. Eric,

    While it’s true that Comcast doesn’t guarantee your IP won’t change, my IP stayed the same for several years.

    Recently, it has changed at least once, but not in the past 30 days or so.

    Mike Heinz (de4335)

  10. Oh – also, I’m not sure y’all understand how networking works. Those two IP addresses from the LA times are probably their external firewalls; I suspect that all LA Times employees would appear to come from those two addresses, assuming they posted here.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the IP addresses themselves don’t prove Masha and workingjournalist are the same person, although they both posted from inside the times.

    Mike Heinz (de4335)

  11. I’m not sure how to say it, so I’ll just come out with it. Please delete the postcript Patterico. It links to a minor’s web pics.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  12. To be clear, what I am saying is that may be a child of one of the principals involved, not one of the principals themselves.

    The lines of appropriate vs inappropriate are pretty fuzzy here – I’m just offering what I hope is a constructive suggestion.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  13. The simplest explanation is that “Masha” used a fake e-mail which coincidentally, if properly syntaxed, belongs to somebody. I got a lot of hits when I yahooed “princess_sparkle” from merchandising sites.

    nk (47858f)

  14. I clicked on some of the yahoo hits. Merchandising sites or young girls’ webpages so I stopped clicking. Masha has either no imagination or weird browsing habits to come up with that particular e-mail and use it consistently.

    nk (47858f)

  15. Princess Sparkle, hmmm? Official newspaper blog, hmm?

    I think I see where this is going.

    See Dubya (2cc395)

  16. That’s okay. Masha thinks I’m a fascist, and Hiltzik has compared me to a Stalinist. I figure I’m somewhere in between, but I’m content to let readers judge for themselves, including Hiltzik and Masha.

    Er, are you sure you want to be seen as “between” two of the world’s most evil, mass murdering despots? I’m sure a few convicted killers on death row might see you that way, though.

    As to Masha vs. Hiltzik (again, assuming they are two different people), I agree that they are technically in violation of the same L.A. Times policy, and I also agree that Masha should only be fisked for it, not fired. However, I don’t think that’s any reason at all to go lightly on Hiltzik. Both violated the letter of the policy, but Hiltzik flagrantly violated its spirit, as well. The purpose of the L.A. Times policy was not to ban pseudonyms for banning pseudonyms’ sake, but to prevent the very sort of dishonest sock puppetry Hiltzik committed. So, rather than drafting a policy that only banned dishonest use of pseudonyms (which can easily be proven in Hiltzik’s case, but which may be very difficult to prove in others), the editorial board decide it was easier to ban its employees from using pseudonyms at all.

    Hiltzik and Masha both violated this policy, and both should be punished. However, that doesn’t mean they should be punished equally. Masha should get off with a stern warning. Hiltzik should not be allowed to write for the paper at all. Does all this sound unfair to you? It shouldn’t, any more than it is inherently unfair for some murderers to serve finite prison sentences while others are imprisoned for life or even executed. Prosecutorial and judicial discretion should exist in the workplace, too.

    Xrlq (6a3c55)

  17. Patterico-
    I’m a big fan, Patterico, but I have to second Dwilker’s plea. And I promise I’m not Dwilker’s sockpuppet.

    MayBee (c5700f)

  18. Isn’t Princess Sparkle the name of Summer’s toy horse statue on the teen oriented Fox TV show, The OC? I do believe it is. So maybe Masha is a big fan of The OC or maybe one of her kids is. Just a thought. 🙂

    Laddy (1453b2)

  19. 64.174.126.78 VIP-Los-Angeles-Times-IAF1058416.cust-rtr.pacbell.net
    this *maybe* their firewall ,
    144.142.21.5 traces past it.

    In Windows use Command Prompt tracert (a command ) 144.142.21.5

    program is (C:/windows/system32/cmd.exe)

    too easy

    StainlessSteelRat (016e23)

  20. An interesting sidelight is that “Masha” still doesn’t have a clue about what a blog is. She repeatedly castigates you for not “reporting” on school board meetings, crime statistics, and the like. Is she so dense that she hasn’t noticed that you don’t play “newspaper guy”? It says right at the top of the page that you harangue. Perhaps they’ve just stopped hiring grown-ups at the Times.

    Bill Schumm (33ab73)

  21. Given Masha’s proclivity for praising, at least peripherally, the TIMES’ coverage of local government in his/her comments, it wouldn’t be surprising if he/she were a reporter providing exactly that type of coverage, would it? Maybe Masha admires and emulates not only Hiltzik’s politics of superiority, but also his self-aggrandizing pseudonymous posturing.

    Levans (2c932f)

  22. I’m surely the only one who finds it ironic this flap started with Hiltzik’s odious “Stalinist” comparison and has devolved into ferreting out identities and ideological ‘loyalties’ through IP addresses.

    Is there a resettlement camp for these types?

    steve (783f3b)

  23. Steve, I hope you are the only one who finds it ironic that this flap started with Hiltik’s odoious “Stalinist” comparison and has “devolved” into something having nothing remotely to do with Stalinism. You should look up the word “irony” in the dictionary. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    Xrlq (6a3c55)

  24. This is possibly “mom” using an e-mail account identifier of “her” daughter in a feeble attempt to hide where she’s posting from.

    I agree with both Levans and Bill Schumm above that Masha is probably on the local beat at the Dog Trainer, and apparently has no idea that this blog is not a newspaper. So dense.

    Bill M (4f48a9)

  25. Before anyone starts accusing you of being paranoid about the “Is this a sting”, “Am I being baited” comments one has to wonder, why is the LAT acting the way they are? If yesterday they had printed, posted, whatever a real story about all of this with Hiltziks admission, apology and never again promise and then went on to thank you for your efforts and contribution to closing the gaps in their ethics policies this thing is dead. They even could have, tongue in cheech, offered you a postion moonlighting as an investigative reporter. And as gravy they could have sat back and looked for an opportunity to prove their own point as the “out of control right wing blogoshpere” continued to gnash away like hyenas at the fleshless carcass of this story. If someone of my meager intelligence can figure that this was probably the best course of action, the braniacs at the LAT surely did. So what are they waiting for? To see if the story gains any traction, thereby requiring any action of this sort? The longer they wait the more traction it gets, they know this. So whats really going on there?

    Eric Morris (5938d1)

  26. Xrig, I’ll do just that. While you try looking up your word “odoious.”

    steve (783f3b)

  27. “tongue in cheech” what an idiot. I meant “tongue in chong” of course.

    Eric Morris (5938d1)

  28. Of course what Masha did isn’t in the same category as what Hiltzik did. That being said, she didn’t exactly add dignity to her employer. If I were a “working journalist” employed at the L.A. Times and my supervisors found out I’d been leaving pseudonynmous blog comments defending the paper, I would be very embarrassed and expect to be called on the carpet for it.

    Masha’s behavior may be OK with you, Patrick — pseudonymous comments are OK with me on my blog too — but you can bet it’s not OK with the Times, nor should it be.

    Cathy Seipp (17eb94)

  29. Um,

    What newspaper in its right mind names its servers: LYE1 and LYE2?

    How about renaming those TRUTH1 and TRUTH2?

    Heh.

    RightNumberOne (11dd90)

  30. I am

    APPALLED

    that this Masha person would DEFAME the word “sparkle!” Which is very beautiful and full of nuance.

    Also, what kind of feminist (and I am assuming here) uses “princess sparkle” for God’s sake. Could that be any more little girl barbie like???

    Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t get that kind of impression from her. I would imagine “bitter Drizella” or something like that.

    *10 blog points to the first one to get that reference.

    Rightwingsparkle (934a68)

  31. Steve (or should that be “Steave?”):

    Xrig, I’ll do just that. While you try looking up your word “odoious.”

    If you’re going to play spelling Nazi over a minor typo, you might want to be a little more careful to avoid typos of your own. Or, you can drop that non-issue, and return to the substance of your comment. I eagerly await your historical evidence that Josef Stalin was in the habit of tracing his enemies’ IP addresses, mocking them in public for a day or two, and then basically leaving them alone.

    Xrlq (6a3c55)

  32. You strayed from the “substance,” Xrig, and I’m content to let the observation speak for itself.

    Interesting about Stalin and IP addresses, though.

    steve (6d9d5f)

  33. A business will always have their same ip address. If not, dns servers would be changing constantly. Many websites keep the same ip, because changing it requires all the dns servers to update which often makes that site unable to be reached for days sometimes.

    Reality (e11db7)

  34. In fact, irony ironically appears only in Steve’s statement that he sights irony in the trends of the thread.

    The irony: Steve pretends to regret Hiltzik’s “odious ‘Stalinist’ comparison” in the same statement which effectively makes precisely that same comparison.

    Now, that is irony! Also, it’s a rather juvenile mode of argumentation.

    Levans (9b2ebb)

  35. Slumber Party at the LA Times?

    Looks like the Hiltzik story will get worse for The LA Times times before it gets better. Either Hiltzik has some serious problems or the reporters at the times are acting like a bunch of girls at a slumber party playing pranks on the interweb. More on…

    The Real Ugly American.com (4e8dcb)

  36. Here’s my reaction to this quote from Masha:

    Um, gee, Mr. Patterico, out of curiosity, have you ever covered even one government agency, and translated its actions into useful information for the average voter? …, but I never see coverage in your blog of anything that would help me, as a voter, know whether my elected officials who are paid with my tax dollars, are doing their jobs. Why is that?

    Perhaps because that’s not his job.

    We could easily ask her when has she ever served on a government agency and made the lives of voters better? Well, she never has, she just talks about what other people are doing in that regard. By her logic, she’s worthless because she’s not doing anything.

    Looked at another way, of course, it is precisely her job to talk about what that government agency is doing and she certainly sees value in that effort. In just the same way, it is Patterico’s job (self-appointed to be sure) to talk about what the L.A. Times is doing to make life for its readers better. He’s “translat[ing] its actions into useful information” for the people of Los Angeles whose news lives are ruled over by the L.A. Times.

    Is it really possible that Masha can’t see that’s what he’s doing? Does she honestly think his job is to pretend to be a newspaper and to outscoop the L.A. Times at county board meetings? Her reading comprehension is either very minimal or she’s being outright disingenuous. Neither explanation reflects well on her and does nothing to encourage one to take her seriously.

    kcom (6964bc)

  37. You strayed from the “substance,” Xrig [sic], and I’m content to let the observation speak for itself.

    I didn’t stray from anything. You’re the luminary who compared Patterico to Stalin, not me. It’s up to you to either admit that this was an idiotic comparison and withdraw it, or explain why it’s not idiotic after all.

    Xrlq (6a3c55)

  38. There are other issues for both Hiltzik and Masha.

    Does the LAT employee policy permit the use of their office computers for personal web-surfing? Are these sock-puppet forays being conducted on company time, when they are supposed to be working?

    Or were they carrying out a work assignment?

    Adjoran (28be46)

  39. lye1 & lye2 make perfect sense as hostnames for gateways when you consider their primary purpose is to clean the crap coming in from the outside world so it doesn’t turn all their vulnerable Windows PCs into spam zombies. lye == soap == geek humor, most likely by the consultant who setup their system originally. And if he was a cynic who saw the pun in the homonym lye == lie well that is high comedy for geeks as well.

    John Morris (eb309d)

  40. Adjoran #36 –

    Maybe this proves once and for all, being a print journalist isn’t just a job it’s a way of life.

    Eric Morris (9d319c)

  41. Sir,

    I agree with some of your other commenters that perhaps Mr. Hiltzik’s behavior warrants a firmer response from LAT than you have prescribed.

    How different is what Mr. Hiltzik did when compared to some reporter’s use of quotes from imagined interviewees? As we’ve seen in the past, some journalist’s ethics are not so strong as to disallow themselves the use of these sorts of deceptive tactics to “push” a particular point of view to their readers (Jayson Blair). This is not only a humiliation for Mr. Hiltzik – not only a black eye for LAT – but a body blow for the entire national media. This simply adds fire to the smoke signals coming from some media critics who maintain that major media outlets are institutionally incapable of dealing with as free a medium as the internet.

    How are we to read a LAT story in the future (the dwindling number of the public who actually DO read it) and not suspect something fishy when we read “sources close to the administration say…” or some such verbiage? I submit to you that we cannot unless Mr. Hiltzik is fired. The spying on others’ email and the pseudonymous shenanigans are only the offenses that we KNOW Mr. Hiltzik has committed.

    As you have already proven, he was acting in his capacity as a journalist and using company resources in defending his own work; and (leaving aside the dishonesty of his positions)was dishonest as to his VERY OWN IDENTITY.

    If there is a Manichean judgement to be made of journalists, it isn’t “Are you a good or bad writer?” Such questions, as every media consumer has experienced, can be graded on a curve depending on affinity of the reader to writing style, etc. The true judgement, from which all other considerations flow, is “Either you are honest or dishonest.”

    Mr. Hiltzik, as we have seen, is dishonest.

    He must go.

    Abraxas (b00769)

  42. Masha – Is this you?

    About the Author
    For ten years, Masha Hamilton worked as a foreign correspondent overseas, first for the Associated Press in the Middle East and then as a Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. She also wrote a newspaper column from Moscow and reported for NBC/Mutual Radio.

    http://www.mashahamilton.com/bio.html

    TakeFive (018e9c)

  43. Princesss_sparkle could be Hiltzik’s daughter. It would explain her defence of him and her access to LAT computers. Plus her writing is a more passionate than wise, like you expect from a 16yo.

    Terry Notus (fbc9a3)

  44. Xrig, Hiltzik penned that cartoon imagery. While I don’t consider serial, guilt-by-association unmasking of critics’ current employment a “Stalinist” echo, it’s not such a daring impertinence.

    steve (6d9d5f)

  45. Dear me, TakeFive! If that’s not her, she had a lot of damn gall picking a former colleague’s name to troll under…

    S. Weasel (e16cf7)

  46. “Masha Hamilton … Moscow correspondent for the LA Times.”

    I wonder if this was while Hiltzik was reading the Moscow correspondents’ email? Interesting coincidence.

    Evil Pundit (1772ee)

  47. What would happen to a columnist if he made up letters that he recieved commenting one way or another on a story of his published in the newspaper? I would imagin that would be a firing offense. Is this similar?

    brian (bbda7f)

  48. Xrlq, it’s probably time to drop the attempt to engage Steve’s incoherence. It seems obvious from his miscommunications that English can’t possibly be his native language.

    Levans (e99be6)

  49. DISCLAIMER!

    I put up that “Masha – is this you?” post just in the spirit of the hunt. Please all, remember, this may not be the same Masha. Or, it may be someone posing as her. I don’t want to be responsible for directing hostility at a presumably uninvolved party.

    That said, I thought it was a coincidence both Hiltzik and this Masha worked for the LA Times in the Moscow bureau.

    TakeFive (97a9ad)

  50. When I did my first post on her, I had already come across that name and guessed that it might be the right person, based on the Moscow connection. But the point of the posts on her was not to “out” who she is, so I didn’t put the name in the post. The point of the posts was to respond to her comments and note her weaselly behavior in not saying she worked for the paper, and to show that another journalist has used pseudonyms — but that it’s not a big deal because they’re not sock-puppet pseudonyms (“Masha, you’re so smart!” “Well, workingjournalist, you’re so beautiful!”).

    Patterico (156eed)

  51. A Google search of the L A Times’ site seems to indicate that nobody called Masha has a byline there now.

    This, together with the statement on Masha Hamilton’s site that she currently lives in New York, would seem to indicate that the person posting under that name is not her.

    However, the coincidence of a “Masha” having worked in the Moscow bureau of the LA Times, possibly around the same time as Hiltzik did, is very interesting.

    I wonder what prompted this person to choose that pseudonym?

    Evil Pundit (1772ee)

  52. Well, now, that’s weird. I hadn’t investigated her current whereabouts because, like I say, that wasn’t the point.

    By the way, DWilkers and MayBee, I took down the link from the postscript. It was only to Google search results, but still. Realize that it’s not princesss_sparkle’s page — rather, sparkle left a comment for the teenager. The comment is “I love you,” in fact. Still, it’s all so weird I just don’t want to delve into it any further.

    Patterico (156eed)

  53. I’m wildly hoping that “masha” might be Hiltzik again.

    But that would be just too good. Maybe that’s the sting?

    Evil Pundit (1772ee)

  54. Ah ok Patterico. I didn’t even look at it that close. I saw the pic of the girl, saw the profile age thing, and closed the window.

    Anyway, please understand I was just trying to help.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  55. Patterico- Thank you. I understand what you were doing and I do find it all intriguing. But with this story getting so much attention, and I think it could have ended up badly (someone posting something weird to her, or an angry parent trying to use it to make you look bad).

    How odd, though, all of this. Who would have guessed back when you wrote your dog trainer post that this would be coming??

    MayBee (c5700f)

  56. Maybee,

    You’re absolutely right. Especially now, with the problems myspace is having regarding underage posters and registered sex offenders. I’d avoid it like the plague.

    John Ekdahl (1fe18c)

  57. If you know the outgoing IP, the source port and the fairly exact time the firewall admin can determine just what internal IP is using the outside translation. From that you can look up in the DHCP server logs and find out the mac address, which ties it to a PC. We used to have to do this with copyright junk all the time.

    Oh – also, I’m not sure y’all understand how networking works. Those two IP addresses from the LA times are probably their external firewalls; I suspect that all LA Times employees would appear to come from those two addresses, assuming they posted here.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the IP addresses themselves don’t prove Masha and workingjournalist are the same person, although they both posted from inside the times.

    Kevin (d27a33)

  58. I think Masha should be fired. A “journalist” who thinks we are living under a dictatorship and who calls yourself and Powerline “fascists”, has no credibility, no objectivity.

    BUT, I am also troubled that you published her e-mail address (even if it is fake). The place where I am entering this comment says, “Mail (will not be published)…”

    I think you are being unethical in violating that promise.

    [Interesting. I didn’t even know that was there. It’s part of the standard WordPress software. I assume that statement is there to assure people that search engines crawling the site won’t pick up their address. I suppose if I had known that was there, I could simply have said that the e-mail addresses are the same, and count on people with knowledge of my history of integrity to believe me. I think the cat’s out of the bag now, and I suspect that the address is fake anyway, so I won’t lose any sleep over it. But I apologize to Masha, who thinks I’m a fascist, in the extremely unlikely event that she relied on that. And I’ll speak with a web designer about getting that language out of the commenting template. I hope this explanation reassures you and other readers that I had no intention of acting unethically. And I think your suggestion that Masha be fired is an incredibly harsh and silly overreaction to a non-transgression. Thanks for commenting. — Patterico]

    not-masha (43ec26)

  59. Anytime I find myself in MySpace I feel very old and very out of touch.

    It’s actually too bad that the Times employee wasn’t in MySpace. It’s pretty certain that most people in MySpace are not subscribers to the Times so if the paper is going to survive and adapt it has a lot of learning to do about things like MySpace. We all do for that matter.

    insider (1fbbf1)

  60. Just so that everyone is clear…

    Masha Hamilton emailed me and denied that she is the “Masha” who commented on this blog. I believe her.

    And “not-masha”, whoever Masha is, s/he should not be fired for her/his political views.

    Perhaps disciplined in whatever way the Times feels best for misusing their computer resources and bringing additional controversy to the Times while s/he’s supposed to be working… but not for her/his political views and feelings provided her/his work is professional.

    Now one interesting possibility, unlikely though it may be, is that LA Times IP address Masha/workingjournalist may be intentionally using the first name of Ms. Hamilton. There is probably a much simpler explanation and I am in no way alleging it. Just exploring the possibility, which is probably farfetched.

    If that is the case, then we have a firing offense, big time. I think even Patterico would agree with me on this one.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  61. Oh, yeah. I said to my wife today: if “Masha” is actually Hiltzik, then he really *should* be fired — for being far, far too stupid to work for the paper.

    Patterico (156eed)

  62. Let’s clear all this up.

    Publish the “Masha” IP address, since there’s now abundant and reasonable doubt.

    There can scarcely be privacy rights to protect and registration should be easy to ascertain.

    Ed (a68826)

  63. I don’t understand. Reasonable doubt about what? I am not interested in learning who “Masha” is, as I have said — unless it’s Hiltzik himself (which I am not alleging), in which case he’s just an idiot. But I’m not publishing the individual and personal IP address of a commenter who hasn’t engaged in sock puppetry. And I don’t understand why you’d want me to.

    Patterico (156eed)

  64. Patterico,

    As I said before, I think it’s unlikely, but if “LA Times IP address Masha” is intentionally using Ms. Hamilton’s first name to mask their identity (when Ms. Hamilton has done reporting work for the Times), then even if it isn’t Mr. Hiltzik doing this, you may not care, but the LA Times should — in a huge way.

    Here’s why: To protect their employees. Also, to maintain a harmonious working environment.

    If any LA Times employee misuses another’s name to post comments to a blog that are highly controversial and inflamatory, like “fascist”, then this is a betrayal of the LA Times associate whose name was misused.

    It may damage their reputation or worse. It certainly would be cowardly and would damage employee morale at the Times.

    In fact, this type of betrayal almost reminds me of the Hiltzik Moscow email misbehavior that got him recalled back to LA; stealing others’ LA Times employees’ passwords and reading their work email.

    I’m not saying the two are related… I’m just saying that they are a similar betrayal of a fellow employee. This isn’t a journalism issue.

    If someone used your name (let’s pretend you had a rare first name like “Masha”) to make blog comments from your office calling people communists, nazis, KKKers, whatever… this could damage your reputation and hurt your career. Or worse.

    In any business, this is true. I’ve worked at many companies with IT policies… they all state IT resources are for company business only. I don’t recall the details, but I assume in any of them, even say a small sales dealership, misusing another employee’s identity in a way that might not only bring disrepute upon the business, but could also severely damage the employee, would be grounds for firing and further civil legal action.

    In closing, in the unlikely event that an LA Times employee who is not Mr. Hiltzik intentionally misused Ms. Hamilton’s first name to make extreme political rants, that’s a firing offense.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  65. Well, I think that comment stands on its own, however, here’s an important afterthought and addendum:

    If an LA Times employee takes any action that damages another person’s reputation using LA Times IT resources, they could be liable to be sued.

    If it comes to the LA Times’ attention that this has happened and they take no action to investigate it in order to mitigate harm or prevent it from recurring, by their willful negligence, they could be liable for both compensatory and punitive damages.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  66. Patterico,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I was probably too harsh in calling your behavior “unethical”. It is better to say it was ethically murky.

    Chris from Victoria,

    I don’t think journalists should be fired for political views. But, Masha has displayed a lack of critical thinking, and she is implicitly trying to suppress criticism of the LA Times by labeling its critics as “fascists”.

    That last point, combined with the violation of the Times non-anonymity policy, THAT makes it a firing offense.

    not-masha (43ec26)

  67. I respect your opinion, not-masha. I think it’s well reasoned and it really comes down to a value judgement. Perhaps that may come to pass. Either way, I believe that it is in the Times’ purvue to decide.

    I think there’s a possibility that you might agree if you read my last comment, in that hypothetical case, it’s more cut and dried.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  68. Let’s recap:

    Real Masha Hamilton was in Moscow.
    Same time period, Hiltzik was in Moscow.

    Hiltzik is moved out of Moscow for acting unethically with the email of fellow employees.

    12 years later Hiltzik is embroiled in a controversy over making up fake people who praise and defend Hiltzik and his articles and even comment about the other fake commenters.

    Although Masha Hamilton is NOT in Los Angeles, somebody in L.A. at the Times where Hiltzik is, just happens to use the name “masha” in defending and praising Hiltzik and the L.A. Times.

    Who would even think to use the pseudonym “masha” if not Hiltzik?

    If it turns out to be him I will wet my pants. On purpose.

    Disclaimer: I don’t want this anonymous “masha” to lose his or her anonymity if he or she is not Hiltzik.

    For sheer entertainment value though I hope it is Hiltzik. The sheer epic tragic entertainment value of it, that’s all.

    Don (b6906b)

  69. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I was probably too harsh in calling your behavior “unethical”. It is better to say it was ethically murky.

    I still don’t like “ethically murky.” It would be better still to acknowledge that I was completely unaware that I was doing anything even arguably unethical. Call it a mistake.

    I understand your point, but I repeat that I didn’t even realize that the message claiming that e-mail addresses won’t be published was there. I am always logged in as Patterico, and once you’re logged in, that message doesn’t appear. So I have almost never seen it, and certainly haven’t seen it for many months.

    That said, I agree that it was a mistake. My solution is that I will try to have that boilerplate warning removed from the template.

    Patterico (156eed)

  70. Thanks for your thoughts on the email privacy issue, Patterico. I believe yours was an honest mistake… at the same time, building email privacy into WordPress’s template (I use a free open source Blogger™ PHP solution called “blogKomm” which offers the same email privacy) was an important intentional design function.

    I was very conscious of this when I implemented blogKomm because I detest spam and wanted my commentators to be able to remain anonymous if they choose.

    In any event, don’t be surprised if your detractors call you to the carpet for it. I would expect that to happen to me if expressly promised, which I do, to keep your email address private and then I published it.

    Well, you’ve acknowleged your mistake. I accept that and if “LA Times IP Masha” has a problem with it, s/he will just have to come forward.

    In regards to my comments #64 and #65… would you please offer your analysis?

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  71. As I say, I’m pretty confident it’s a fake address anyway.

    Patterico (156eed)

  72. Patterico,

    “Mistake” works fine for me.

    And, I appreciate that you immediately took ownership of the mistake.

    not-masha (43ec26)

  73. As for #64 and #65, it could just be coincidence that the person used a name of someone who used to work at the paper. Kind of an odd coincidence, I agree. But it could be. In any event, I still think we should simply laugh at Masha for pretending she wasn’t with the newspaper, and for being a loony leftist — and then let’s move on to something else.

    Patterico (156eed)

  74. We should — the Times shouldn’t.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5d90a2)

  75. I just read about Hiltzik’s 1993 “problem”. It seems that reading other people’s email got him reassigned from the L.A. Times’ Moscow bureau to Los Angeles. Does this sound like how the church handled some embarrasing priests? Well, the next time we hear about a “culture of corruption”, we have can ask if the speaker is referring to the Times.

    Tom T. (ed4336)

  76. “Im not publishing the individual and personal IP address of a commenter who hasnt engaged in sock puppetry.”

    Then why do you maintain Masha “pretended” not to work at the paper?

    I understand you’d like to “move on to something else,” but those two statements don’t square.

    Masha Hamilton – who worked with Hiltzik – has denied authorship – yet we’re oddly incurious about who may be posing as her.

    Let’s please have the IP address. There may be other commenters to impugn.

    [Masha could simply be a pseudonym. It’s not clearly someone posing as her. I have published the LAT IP’s because they are shared. But I have seen no justification for trying to find out who Masha is, and you haven’t provided one. If it’s Hiltzik, I trust that the LAT can figure that out. If not, it’s none of your business who she is. — P]

    Ed (a68826)

  77. “I have seen no justification for trying to find out who Masha is, and you haven’t provided one.”

    No, you just smear her as dishonest and then cloak any evidence.

    Good night and good luck.

    Ed (a68826)

  78. What evidence am I cloaking? Her private Comcast IP address? Then I plead guilty: I am not publishing that. But so what? What I have said about it is true: the same address and e-mail address were used by her and workingjournalist. If you don’t want to believe me, then you’re welcome not to. But it’s the truth.

    I am not “smearing” her as dishonest. First of all, a “smear” is something that’s not true, and I have said nothing about her that is not true. What I have said is that, by referring to the folks at the LAT as “they,” and not disclosing that she works there, she was weaselly. I stand by that. And I have not cloaked any evidence other than the numbers of her private IP address. I have laid out the evidence that she was weaselly — everything but publishing the numbers of her private IP Comcast account, which I am not going to do. And you haven’t given a single good reason that I should. Not one.

    Patterico (156eed)

  79. Comcast wouldn’t give you her account info, anyway.

    Not everyone who uses “Tribune Co.” hardware is a “working journalist.” All working journalists are nonetheless impugned.

    Asking everyone to just “move on” is slightly indecent.

    The surest way the LAT could clear this up is with your cooperation, which you know perfectly well they will neither request nor get.

    The next move, I wouldn’t wonder, is Masha Hamilton’s.

    Ed (a68826)

  80. Maybe a janitor — a very articulate (if loony lefty) janitor — tapped away on an LAT computer and just called himself “workingjournalist.” I don’t know. All I know is the facts that I have posted about.

    But I find the janitor scenario pretty unlikely.

    Patterico (156eed)

  81. And, as I said, for all I know this is some elaborate LAT sting.

    I have no idea.

    Patterico (156eed)

  82. And, Ed, if Comcast won’t give up account info, then what could the possible justification be for publishing Masha’s private IP address for Comcast — which you so darkly accuse me of “cloaking” for some sinister reason known only to you?

    You are being completely obtuse. Your points make no sense at all. Is this deliberate?

    Because if you are going to sit there and imply that I am being dishonest, then I’d like you to be more clear about just what the hell you mean.

    Patterico (156eed)

  83. […] 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. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Tell L.A. Times Editors Whether You Think They Handled the Hiltzik Matter Properly (421107)

  84. Hey, I’m new here, but this is great stuff! I’m definitely going to bookmark this site!
    Help For Troubled Teens

    Brian (78a2ac)

  85. Anyone else having bother with myspace or is it just my pc?
    Last couple of days it seems it wont let me download any song from anywhere.
    Anyone having same bother – or anyone how to sort it?

    Jameson (1f80ff)


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