Michael Hiltzik came up, of course, during my interview of Los Angeles Times Editor Dean Baquet on Sunday at the Times Festival of Books. He beat me to the punch, alluding to the controversy as soon as the discussion turned to the paper's online struggles. The bottom line is that Baquet called Hiltzik's undoing a professional tragedy, but said he knew immediately that—regardless of what the blogosphere thought—Hiltzik's use of pseudonyms to post favorable comments about himself and disparage his critics violated Times ethics. Baquet said he wasn't certain sure how to punish Hiltzik until he read about Ken Lay's trial last week and thought how the Enron saga would make great fodder for a business columnist. He realized then, Baquet said, that his business columnist—Hiltzik—could no longer write credibly about duplicity in the business world. There's no place, he said, for dishonesty under the Times banner.
I'm not sure very many people in the audience other than the dozen or so Times staffers and a handful of bloggers (Cathy Seipp posed the first question from the audience, about the Hiltzik affair) had the slightest clue what we were talking about. Here's a link to Friday's news that Hiltzik's column and blog were discontinued. For what it's worth, almost every Times staffer and journalist I talked to about it this weekend thought Hiltzik was lucky to keep his job.
More Hiltzik reactions:
♦ The Times' new Opinion blog has 83 moderated comments about Hiltzik.
♦ Instapundit Glenn Reynolds on CNN's Reliable Sources: "This seems more like a misdemeanor than like a felony....It seems like the tackiness rule should apply."
♦ Patterico posts, "I have argued for a couple of weeks now that Michael Hiltzik’s use of pseudonyms as sock puppets was embarrassing and silly, but not something that should get him disciplined by the Los Angeles Times — beyond, perhaps, a temporary suspension of his blog."
♦ Independent Sources says, "Killing Hiltzik’s print column seems a stretch, unless the notion is to make him quit."
♦ Ezra Klein writes, "This is nuts...The LA Times stripped Michael Hiltzik of his column because he posted some anonymous comments on rightwing blogs? He didn't lie, or misrepresent the facts, or buy into spin, or lose his intellectual vibrancy, he just assumed a pseudonym to engage some detractors in their comment sections?"
♦ Carol Platt Liebau writes, "Hiltzik had a nasty little habit of misrepresenting his ideological adversaries' arguments, all the better to demolish the (misrepresented) argument and smear its alleged proponent. His various pseudonyms assisted in this effort."
♦ Darleenisms posts, "I do have some mixed feelings about this whole situation, especially since I've had my blog shut down before by the LAT lawyers."
♦ Deadline Hollywood Daily reports that Hiltzik will move to investigating sports when he returns from suspension.
Book Festival bloggage:
♦ "It's heartening to see what appears to be more and more people attending what is apparently the largest civic literary event in the country." (The Elegant Variation)
♦ "A lot of fun and a set of curious paradoxes." (LAist)
♦ "I don't mind admitting that I slept through a good part of the Gore Vidal-Arianna Huffington chat that packed UCLA's Royce Hall Saturday." (The American Reporter)
♦ "I suppose it’s a good sign that with each festival I go to, I sit next to ever more prestigious authors." (Craig Clevenger)
♦ "It refutes those dumb jokes about how people on the West Coast don't read." (Here in Van Nuys)
♦ "Aside from vicariously feeling the joy of reading from the thousands of bookphiles that criss-crossed the quad, skippy spoke at length with some interesting authors and attended some fine panels." (Skippy the Bush Kangaroo)
♦ "The ticket booth opens at 9 a.m. and moves quickly. I get tickets to all four events I want. I walk the campus. My book publisher Prometheus has no booth." (Luke Ford)