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April 21, 2006

So Much for Journalistic "Ethics"

Blogger Patterico, whose "real life" job is prosecuting criminals for the LA County DA's office, has busted the LAT's business columnist Michael Hiltzik for posting comments on his own (and other people's blogs) under phony names. In response, the LAT's editors suspended Hiltzik's LAT-sponsored blog "Golden State" for breach of the paper's ethical guidelines requiring their employees to correctly identify themselves to the public. (By the way, Hiltzik is a twenty five year veteran of the LAT and won a Pulitzer prize in 1999 for exposing corruption in the music business.)

Now, 'splain to me again how professionally-trained journalists with their layers of editorial fact-checking and adult supervision are so much more responsible than the guttersnipes of the blogosphere? At least most bloggers I know would never stoop to posting bogus comments praising their own views and pillorying their critics. Good detective work, Patterico.


The WaPo's media reporter, Howard Kurtz, has a good piece on the LAT's suspension of Michael Hiltzik's column/blog.

The bizarre, and troubling part of all of this is why should a respected, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist resort to this kind of crap? Personally, I have been surprised at the hostility and defensiveness I've encountered from journalists when they learn that I'm a blogger. There is no way to be sure, but I suspect that a lot of this hostility is resentment at what they perceive as a diminution of their privileged status. Previously, journalists were free to criticise others whose only recourse would be to write a letter to the editor that their institution could freely edit or ignore, as they wished. Now, with blogs, anyone can respond, and criticize, and point out hypocrisy and inconsistencies wherever they find them. Evidently, it's enough to drive some of them around the bend in an attempt to regain some of their old power to shape public opinion.

Sad, really.

Further Update

Howard Kurtz has more in his Monday column, including the interesting information that Hiltzik was recalled from the WaPo's Moscow bureau for hacking into colleague's personal email accounts in 1993:

He was exposed through an internal sting operation when he asked about phony messages that had been sent to other staffers in the bureau.

"His answer was that he was nosy and curious," says Carey Goldberg, a former colleague in the Moscow bureau who now works for the Boston Globe. "We were extremely upset. It was an incredible invasion of privacy. There were a lot of personal e-mails in there."

I hate to cast stones, but Mr. Hiltzik does appear to have something of an honesty deficit. Perhaps blogging, which after all is unsupervised (except by its readers), requires a higher level of ethics and intellectual honesty than does traditional journalism, where editors and fact checkers are supposed to enforce basic ethical standards.

April 21, 2006 at 09:27 AM | Permalink


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"Personally, I have been surprised at the hostility and defensiveness I've encountered from journalists when they learn that I'm a blogger."

As in, who the hell told you you were allowed to talk back, peon?

Posted by: richard mcenroe | Apr 22, 2006 3:07:42 PM

Zackly, Richard.

Posted by: Spartacus | Apr 22, 2006 6:00:48 PM

You can see their defensivness in their industry occasions, the endless awards they give themselves for their integrity and courage and the speeches about their unflinching pursuite of the corrupt. Methinks they doth fellate themselves too much.

Posted by: Amos | Apr 22, 2006 9:01:34 PM

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