L.A. Times Cuts Column After ‘Misrepresentation’

The L.A. Times canning of first Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State blog and eventually his column is the latest development to strike the high-drama, unclearly defined world of newspaper blogging.

Last week, L.A. Observed posted that Hiltzik had been using up to three nicknames in his comments on right-wing blogs… namely that of L.A. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, who posts at Patterico’s Pontifications.

Columnist and blogger Matt Welch is hosting an extensive conversation about Hiltzik’s suspension on the L.A. Times new Opinions blog.

The Times editor’s note admits that no ethical violations were committed and that “an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web.” BUT… “Hiltzik has acknowledged using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com”

Hiltzik, a Times columnist for 20 years, won a Pulitzer in 1999 for reporting on entertainment industry corruption.

As Mack Reed posts in L.A. Voice:

[Hiltzik] stumbled by manufacturing two of his greatest fans, posing as them on his own blog and others, and trying to mislead the public as to his own popularity – both the height of vanity and the depth of stupidity for a blogger.

By commenting on his own blog using a pseudonym, Hiltzik gets what he deserves. But what concerns me about the swift reaction by the L.A. Times is the notion that they may find it unacceptable for any of their employees to post *anywhere* under pseudonyms.

Not an unthinkable add-in to the Times code of ethics, this would essentially make it difficult for Times columnists to blog *at all*, as to post a comment on a blog using a real name regularly affiliated with the Times could constitute its own violation — that of expressing bias or taking sides — moreso than driving around with I *heart* Fidel or Jeb/Condi ’08 bumper stickers would suggest.

I occasionally blog and comment anonymously or using a pseudonym out of fear that a potential employer or client may one day judge me — or worse — based on my cached expressions. I would hope we’re not heading towards an environment in which I must worry about misrepresenting myself by choosing to voice my opinion anonymously.

Many law bloggers and scholars have posted in-depth regarding the issue of blogger anonymity. See here, here, and here.

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