By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 21, 2006
The Los Angeles Times suspended the blog of one of its top columnists last night, saying he violated the paper's policy by posting derogatory comments under an assumed name.
The paper said in an online editor's note that Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes the Golden State column, had admitted posting remarks on both his Times blog and on other Web sites under names other than his own. The Times said it is investigating the matter. Editor Dean Baquet declined comment, and Hiltzik said he could not comment.
The deceptive postings grew out of a running feud between Hiltzik and conservative bloggers in Southern California. One is Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk show host and blogger. The other is an assistant Los Angeles district attorney named Patrick Frey, who maintains a blog under the name Patterico's Pontifications.
When commenters on Frey's Web site criticized Hiltzik, an examination by Frey of the Internet addresses involved showed it was the Times writer who responded in remarks posted under the name "Mikekoshi."
Frey wrote that "the evidence is overwhelming that he has used more than one pseudonym. Hiltzik and his pseudonymous selves have echoed each other's arguments, praised one another, and mocked each other's enemies. All the while, Hiltzik's readers have been unaware that (at a minimum) the acid-tongued 'Mikekoshi' . . . is in fact Hiltzik himself."
Frey cited other examples. On another local blog called L.A. Observed, he noted, "Mikekoshi" described Los Angeles writer Cathy Seipp "as a 'tool' and as someone 'hampered by her own ignorance.' "
On Frey's site, "Mikekoshi" said of Hewitt: "The prospect of having Hugh Hewitt running around loose in public without a muzzle should make any intelligent person nervous."
"Mikekoshi" has also ripped Frey, writing, "Congratulations, Patterico, for a new high-water mark in dopey criticism," and "What a buffoonish post this is."
The public sniping has been just as antagonistic. Hewitt took a swipe this week at the Times's corporate parent, the Tribune Co., for a dip in profits and circulation. Hiltzik responded on his blog that Hewitt's Web traffic is down because "his peculiar brand of reactionary conservatism has become increasingly marginalized on the fringes of American political life."
Hewitt last night called the Times editor's note "very, very clever. It states the 'offense' is misrepresenting identity to the public, not the publication of false identities and the manipulation of opinions so as to influence opinions. Are they digging into all of Hiltzik's stories? All of the purported comments on his blog? . . . It does seem like a question of how a huge media institution will treat deception within its product."
Hiltzik and a Times colleague shared a 1999 Pulitzer for beat reporting for exposing corruption in the entertainment industry.
On his Times blog, before the editor's note appeared, Hiltzik did not deny using the name "Mikekoshi" and seemed to dismiss Frey's complaint: "This is amusing, because most of the comments posted on his website are anonymous or pseudonymous. . . . Anonymity for commenters is a feature of his blog, as it is of mine. It's a feature that he can withdraw from his public any time he wishes. He has chosen to do that in one case only, and we might properly ask why. The answer is that he's ticked off that someone would disagree with him."
The editor's note said that Times policy, both in print and online, is for "editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public."
Sentiment: Strong Buy
I don't normally feel it's appropriate to "shoot the messenger". Sometimes the message is worth hearing, even if the messenger is suspect. However, from what you've shown us, it appears that Hiltzik is ethically challenged, to say the least. Why is that important? Because often "journalists" will take stories fed to them by short sellers and publish them as their own. Not necessarily for an under-the-table payoff, but in order to have material to print. So one thing we'd have to ask ourselves - why would the short sellers be so interested in getting their "scare story" into the press? Obviously, it's because STEM has reported a lot of good news recently, and the share price has been moving up strongly. It threatens to break out even more on the upside, if it can clear the resistance below $3. So I think that "article by Hiltzik", given his ethical background, may say more about the short sellers than about the actual topic.
As to the points in the "Hiltzik article", it seems to focus on the Alzheimer's award from CIRM. There is a suggestion, or a hint, that STEM might not get the CIRM Alzheimer's money. That is silly conjecture, IMO, highly unlikely. The main pont seems to be that STEM doesn't have $20 million now, so how can they "match" the CIRM Alzheimer's award for $20 million? Obviously, STEM will have to raise some cash at some point, to get the award. This is "scary news"? I'd have thought that was obvious all along. The short sellers tell us that Hiltzik is a "Pulitzer prize winning" journalist, as if that matters. As you've pointed out, not only does Hiltzik appear to be ethically challenged, but he shared that award with another writer - for all we know, the other writer did the work of significance. Again, not shooting the messenger, but noting that the bears felt it was appropriate to put "Pulitzer prize winning" in their notation, obviously hoping that this would carry more influence than the message itself. Clearly the bears are scared - will longs let them off the hook, over this? I doubt it, and would certainly hope not. Bottom line from the Hiltzik story (besides that the bears are scared) - STEM will need to raise some cash in order to get the full CIRM Alzheimer's grant. I think most STEM investors already knew that this would be the case as of September 6, when the grant was awarded with the "matching" condition.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
Reporter Disciplined for Reading His Co-workers' Electronic Mail
By CALVIN SIMS
Published: December 06, 1993
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In a stunning example of growing concern over technology and privacy in the workplace, The Los Angeles Times has recalled a foreign correspondent from its Moscow bureau for snooping into the electronic mail of his colleagues.
The correspondent, Michael Hiltzik, a well-regarded journalist who joined The Times's Moscow bureau in August, is being reassigned to an undetermined position in Los Angeles as a disciplinary action, editors and reporters at the newspaper said.
Although computer experts have warned that the proliferation of electronic mail throughout corporate America poses a threat to employees' privacy, Mr. Hiltzik's reassignment is one of the few times that such a high-ranking employee has been disciplined for reading his co-workers' electronic mail. Lack of Adequate Safeguards
Electronic mail systems, known as e-mail, allow employees to send electronic messages, either personal or work-related, to each other via computers.
A few companies have taken great steps to protect the privacy of such messages, which typically require a password to retrieve. At some companies, reading another person's electronic mail is a violation of corporate ethics and may result in dismissal.
Sentiment: Strong Buy