The Hiltzik affair makes an appearance in the pages of the Los Angeles Times today, in Tim Rutten’s “Regarding Media” column. After a discussion of the New York Times‘s publication of classified material, and a denunciation of right-wing bloggers who want to see the reporters prosecuted for it, Rutten says:
In this case, what you have is the latest extension of the right wing’s mantra-like criticism of the American news media. Like the constant hum of traffic, it now seems an unavoidable part of our contemporary life. It’s interesting to recall that it began as a perfectly reasonable — indeed, beneficial — discussion of unexamined bias in newspaper and broadcast journalism and of news outlets’ institutional lethargy when it came to correcting errors. As it turns out, though, addressing those things isn’t what the critics have in mind. They don’t want an unbiased news media, they want a press that reflects their bias.
They’d like a press that is wholly blue or wholly red, one that stops bothering a nation increasingly divided in this very fashion with inconvenient facts and doubts. That was a sentiment that came through with particular clarity this week, when the Los Angeles Times was forced to suspend columnist Michael Hiltzik’s blog after it was revealed that he had posted comments on the Internet and this paper’s own website under false names. An editor’s note regarding the decision was published Friday and the circumstances surrounding Hiltzik’s conduct are being examined.
The incident has provoked a kind of cybernetic thunderstorm, and one of the most revealing claps came from talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who used his popular blog to argue against what The Times had done.
In his view, “The paper should admit that their journalists are just polemicists who carry their opinions with them into battles they care deeply about. They are as biased as the day is long and getting longer. They aren’t objective, and never have been…. Hiltzik may be the most honest guy at the Times.”
Here, as in Bennett’s and Johnson’s attack on the three prize-winning reports, we confront an attempt to win through bluster and intimidation what cannot be gained through politics or persuasion.
It takes the prize.
“They’d like a press that is wholly blue or wholly red, one that stops bothering a nation increasingly divided in this very fashion with inconvenient facts and doubts.”
Maybe we just want an honest press, Mr. Rutten. How about that?
UPDATE: Hugh has more.