Friday, April 21, 2006

Busted! L.A.Times Columnist Pulls Wool Over Poly-Pseudonymous Postings

These days, it seems that breachs of ethics in the blogosphere are going on at an alarming rate. Yes, I know y'all think there's no such things as ethics out here in the Wild Wild Blogosphere, but if the recent yanking of L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik's blog is an indication, we not only have an ethical code, but we can, when we want, police ourselves (even if it's out of a kind of "gotcha!" mindset.)

Here's the deal: Hiltzek decided that he wanted to mess with some conservative SoCal bloggers that he disagreed with--most notably Hugh Hewett and L.A-D.A Patrick Frey. Rather than going about the fight transparently and in a forthright manner, Hiltzik decided to get all cheeky and poly-pseudonymous on their asses:
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."

I'm laughing, yet I'm not. I'm wondering if there was some policy at the L.A.Times that forbid their bloggers from commenting on the blogs of others. Yet I'm also thinking Hiltzik's a just an ego-driven schmuck who thought himself smarter, cooler and more righteous than his opponents or his readers. More than anything I'm absolutely freaking disgusted that another high profile reporter who blogs decided to act like such a cheeky little ass. Did Hiltzik really think that the guy he's trashing wouldn't try to trace back the pseudonymous one's identity in an effort to nail down exactly who would want to put out so much trash-effort (the multiple pseudonymns)? Did Hiltzik think he was being "cool" and web-savvy and a real blogger with his antics?

Perhaps Hiltzik figured "it's the blogosphere! I can do anything I want out here!" Wrong. We have our ways, and Patrick Frey has a clue as to not only what those ways and techonlogies are, but also how to use them...

So here's a belated clue for Hiltzik and others: if you blog, and you blog under a certain name, and esp. for an organization, do everyone around you a huge favor and blog forthrightly and transparently. Don't get all pseudonymous (or anonymous) in digging at your opponents while using your work computer. Your organization's ISP will show up and you will probably get popped. And nobody really likes pesudonymous comments, esp. if they are on the one hand negative and on the other sound like someone who's got a case of multiple personality disorder.

I still wonder if the L.A. Times had some kind of policy about their bloggers engaging other bloggers. Newspapers can be kind of funny about blogging (I know one alt paper that outright forbids its staff to blog). If the L.A.Times did forbid Hiltzik from engagement, then he would have had no recourse but to blog pseudonymously, esp. if he wanted to believe himself to be a "real blogger."

On the other hand, if he was just being a cheeky ass, Hiltzik deserves everthing he gets, as he monkeyed with some of those unwritten blogger ethics codes. He should have erred on the side of transparentcy and posted under his own name. He shouldn't have tried being Mr. Cool and engaging in mock conversations with himself on other people's blogs. That's kind of like spamming someone, and is truly the sign of a dork. Had he been forthright and transparent, it would have given him some major credibility in the blogosphere and even among his opponents--because even though we might disagree, we're all bloggers under the skin.

Update: Hiltzik did violate a Times blogging policy, but his blog is back up...thanks Independent Sources, where there is also this great comment: "What shouldn’t be blamed, even unconsciously, is the medium. It would be easy for the LAT to learn the “lesson” that reporters or columnists can’t be trusted with blogs.

I hope they go the other way. While I don’t enjoy Hiltzik’s blog — too self-righteous, too ad-hominem, and too venomous — the LAT should let more staffers blog, not less." amen to that!

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