April 21, 2006

L.A. Times Pulls Columnist’s Blog over Web Fake

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 own column and attack his conservative foes.

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

It marked the latest salvo in the David vs. Goliath battle between bloggers and the "mainstream media" they accuse of arrogance and bias under the guise of objectivity.

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

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

Times spokeswoman Amy Moynihan said the paper was still investigating the matter and could take further action.

"We're just trying to find out what happened and make sure we're looking at all sides," Moynihan said. "When that's completed we'll make any further decisions if we feel they are warranted."

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

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

Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather resigned last year following a blogger-initiated furor over a story strongly suggesting that President George W. Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.

The report was based on documents that 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.