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Michael Hiltzik Watch: Golden State Column and Blog Discontinued for Ethics Violations

Los Angeles Times: Editor’s note

The Times is discontinuing Michael Hiltzik’s Golden State column, which ran in the Business section, because the columnist violated the newspaper’s ethics guidelines. This follows the suspension last week of his blog on latimes.com, which also has been discontinued. Hiltzik has acknowledged using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper.

Hiltzik did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web. But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of The Times’ ethics guidelines: Staff members must not misrepresent themselves and must not conceal their affiliation with The Times. This rule applies equally to the newspaper and the Web world.

Over the past few days, some analysts have used this episode to portray the Web as a new frontier for newspapers, saying that it raises fresh and compelling ethical questions. Times editors don’t see it that way. The Web makes it easier to conceal one’s identity, and the tone of exchanges is often harsh. But the Web doesn’t change the rules for Times journalists.

After serving a suspension, Hiltzik will be reassigned.

The Los Angeles Times gives Michael Hiltzik a third life. Remember Hiltzik was reassigned to the Spring Street business beat after being disciplined for hacking into and reading a colleague’s e-mails while in Moscow with the L.A. Times.

Why would ANY employer want this unethical jerk writng for them?

LA Observed has the memo sent to Los Angeles Times staff:

By now most of you know that Mike Hiltzik has acknowledged violating the paper’s ethics guidelines. He did so by using pseudonyms to post a single comment on his blog on latimes.com and multiple comments elsewhere on the Web that dealt with his column and other issues involving the newspaper.Because of this violation, we are discontinuing Mike’s column in the newspaper, Golden State, and his blog of the same name. In addition, we are suspending Mike without pay for a period of time. At the end of the suspension, he will be reassigned.

Killing a column is a serious step. We don’t take it lightly. Mike did not commit any ethical violations in his newspaper column, and an internal inquiry found no inaccurate reporting in his postings in his blog or on the Web.

But employing pseudonyms constitutes deception and violates a central tenet of our ethics guidelines: We do not misrepresent ourselves and we do not conceal our affiliation with The Times. This rule applies equally to the newspaper and the Web world. We expect Times employees to behave with integrity and follow our guidelines in all journalistic forums.A columnist has a special place within The Times. Editors, colleagues and, most of all, readers must trust the integrity and judgment of a columnist because of the freedom that comes with the job. Mike often used his column to pillory business leaders for duplicity or violating the trust of employees, shareholders or the public and we are no longer comfortable granting him that special place within our newspaper.

Over the past few days, some analysts have used this episode to portray the Web as a new frontier for newspapers. Some have said it raises fresh and compelling ethical questions. We don’t see it that way. The Web makes it easier to conceal one’s identity, and the tone of exchanges is often harsh. But the Web doesn’t change the rules for journalists.

The Web has created new opportunities for newspapers. It is undoubtedly a big part of our future. It is a competitive and chaotic world. The most important attributes we bring to that new world are our reputation, our integrity and our determination to put out a great
newspaper that behaves in accordance with the highest ethical standards.

Dean and Doug (Emphasis Flap’s)

The Los Angeles Times Ethics Policy (newly revised) is here.

Staff conduct

The Times expects its editorial staff to behave with dignity and professionalism. We do nothing while gathering the news that we would be ashamed to see in print or on television. We do not let the behavior of the pack set standards for us.

In general, we identify ourselves as staff members when covering news events. There are some instances when offering such identification is impossible, impractical or counterproductive, but in no case should a staff member lie about his or her affiliation with The Times. We should deal honorably with people and institutions we cover, just as we expect them to deal honorably with us.

Times journalists may not use their affiliation with the newspaper to resolve personal disputes or seek special treatment or personal benefits. Emphasis in bold is Flap’s.

Hiltzik has received a slap on the wrist AGAIN.

The only special place within the newspaper Flap would give Hiltzik would be OUT THE DOOR.

Blogosphere:

Patterico: Hiltzik Column Discontinued; He Won’t Be Fired

LAVoice.org: Hiltzik’s Punishment: Pretty Swift, Pretty Firm

Hugh Hewitt: The Los Angeles Times Suspends Hiltzik, Discontinues His Column and Blog

Hot Air: ‘Twas sock puppets killed the beast

Independent Sources: Los Angeles Times yanks Hiltzik’s column and blog

Captain’s Quarters: Hiltzik Loses Column Over Sock Puppetry 

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