April 21, 2006

L.A. Times pulls columnist’s blog over fake names

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Times has suspended
the blog of a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who posed as an
Internet reader to defend his column and attack his
conservative foes.

The Times learned of Michael Hiltzik's multiple identities
from another blogger, Patrick Frey, who was slammed by the
columnist under a pseudonym. Frey, author of the Patterico's
Pontifications blog (www.patterico.com), traced the writer back
to Hiltzik's computer.

In 1999, Hiltzik won a Pulitzer Prize at the Times with
Chuck Philips for a series exposing corruption in the music

Hiltzik's spat with Frey marked the latest salvo in the
battle between bloggers and the mainstream media who they
accuse of arrogance and bias under the guise of objectivity.

In a statement, the Times said: "Hiltzik admitted Thursday
that he posted items on the paper's Web site, and on other Web
sites, under names other than his own,"

"That is a violation of The Times ethics guidelines, which
requires editors and reporters to identify themselves in
dealing with the public," the paper said. "The Times is
investigating the postings."

There was no immediate word if the newspaper planned to
take any additional action against the columnist.

Hiltzik, a business page columnist who has sparred with
Frey and other conservative bloggers, told Reuters he could not
comment. A Times spokesman was not immediately available.

In an earlier posting on his Golden State blog, Hiltzik
dismissed the complaints by Frey, a Los Angeles prosecutor, as
"amusing" and overblown.

"(Frey) seems to think that pseudonymous posting is
deceptive, though he can't articulate why that should be, given
the abundance of pseudonyms and anonymity on his own blog
starting with the name on the banner," Hiltzik wrote.

Frey exposed Hiltzik's multiple identities by finding
matches between the Internet addresses used by the columnist
and at least two "readers" called "Mikekoshi" and

He discovered Hiltzik was also identified as "Mikekoshi" on
an Internet mailing list for fans of sumo wrestling.

Dan Rather stepped down as CBS news anchor last year after
a blogger-initiated furor over a story by the network
suggesting President George W. Bush received favorable
treatment in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.

The report was based on documents the network later
acknowledged could not be authenticated. The papers had first
been challenged by conservative bloggers who long claimed that
Rather had a liberal bias.