Hiltzik of the LA Times – Unethical Or Just Ignorant?

I’ve had fun reading Michael Hiltzik in the past, mostly because he’s an interesting case of a major newspaper trying on the blog form. He manages, I think to combine the worst of both – the overweening arrogance of the MSM and the casual, fact-challenged style of much blogging. He’s sadly modeling himself on some weird hybrid of TBogg and Atrios, and under the impression that spittle-flecked indignation is what the personal voice of blogging is all about.
Hugh Hewitt has been hammering the Times, and suggesting that their circulation decline (3% year to year) is related to their political leanings (I’m doubtful that this is the whole or even the majority of the reason, but Hugh gets to make his argument).

Hiltzik replies with a typically classless slam at Hugh – suggesting that his blog traffic is down and implying that it’s his conservative stance that’s responsible.

Here’s what Michael says (links in original):

So I think it’s worthwhile to put our results in perspective by asking the question: How is Hugh’s blog doing? Luckily, he has provided us with the answer, thanks to Site Meter, a program he uses to track visits to his website. I’ve been keeping an eye on Hugh’s Site Meter, which appears on his home page, since early February. All I can say to him is: Uh-oh.

Back on February 11, when I began this project, Hewitt’s Site Meter showed there had been 295,874 visits over the previous seven days, for a daily average of 42,268. But by yesterday, April 13, the running seven-day count had declined to 238,782, for a daily average of only 34,112.

That’s a 19.3% decline in Hewitt’s visitor count over a span of only two months. The loss hasn’t been strictly in a straight line, but it has been steady.

Got that? Now click through on the ‘Site Meter’ link in the quote. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

You get the generic Site Meter home page.

Let me introduce Mr. Hiltzik to my little friend, the Internet. One of the things we do, typically, is to link directly to the thing we’re discussing, so that people can look for themselves and validate (or, in this case, invalidate) our claims. Here’s the actual link to Hugh’s Site Meter. Go ahead and click through and let me know if you see a secular decline.

Patterico hammered Hiltzik for misrepresenting the numbers (amplified by Independent Source’s look at Hugh’s Alexa ratings, which go back further than his Sitemeter numbers do.

I want to pile on, and suggest that while I’ve looked at some of Patrick’s more aggressive claims about Hiltzik’s intellectual honesty as a bit over the top, I was wrong – Hiltzik is just plain dishonest.

I can’t imagine another reason why – having look at the actual numbers from Sitemeter for Hugh’s site – he wouldn’t have included the link, except on the assumption that his readers would simply take his word for it.

14 thoughts on “Hiltzik of the LA Times – Unethical Or Just Ignorant?”

  1. Yeah, I tried to check Hewitt’s Site Meter, but my computer died, and for whatever reason it didn’t come up on my Treo. Thanks for the link to it.

    You know, I have three times now tried to post links to the Independent Sources link in Hiltzik’s comments. My comments appear to be stuck in moderation. Funny . . . he has approved two comments by lefty supporters since the first two times I tried.

    My first two attempts were this afternoon. My third was at 8:45 this evening and included a link to your post as well. I saved that one. If it gets lost in perpetual moderation, I’ll post it on my own site.

    Good catch.

  2. I have absolutely no dog in this fight, but I checked Hewitt’s SiteMeter, and it does appear that his overall visits decreased by about 16.6% between January 1st and March 1st. Am I reading it wrong?

    For the record, Hiltzik’s thesis that conservative stupidity is detracting from Hewitt’s traffic is pretty Baghdad Bob in its distance from reality. If that’s the case, why is the “blogosphere” a galaxy tilting over the event horizon into the intellectual black hole of Charles Johnson, Powerline and their ilk, leaving behind the supernova of Bush shills, lunatics and imbeciles who endlessly spiral forth from their example?

  3. But there is an increase since Nov. 1 and an even bigger one since Aug. 1. That’s why you look at long-term trends. You don’t pick out two random points like Hiltzik did, because it can be misleading — as his data was.

  4. The other thing to note if you’re a blogger, is that traffic is partly external-event-driven. Something big happens, a controversy hits that’s on point for you, and up goes the traffic. This, in my observation, is where the greatest opportunities for long-term growth tend to lie.

    At levels lower than Hugh’s, traffic will also be “monster post” driven, but the higher you go the less this is true. Hugh escaped the gravity well a long time ago.

  5. I’m quite sure that Hiltzik’s attack is driving more visitors to Hewitt’s blog, too. Not exactly a decrease in traffic as Hiltzik claims.

  6. Hmmm

    LATimes: dominant paper in a metro-area of over 9 million people with over a 1000 employees and millions of dollars at its disposal to publish and print a daily Newspaper.


    Hugh Hewitt: Law professor, radio host and blogger who provides his content free of charge.

    Sounds like a valid comparison to me.

  7. Since Hugh’s core offering is his radio show, a comparison to his radio audience would actually have some relevance.

    But there is nothing the LA Times is more allergic to than relevance.

  8. let me know if you see a secular decline

    You keep on using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    Unless of course we are judging Hugh’s traffic over a lifetime or century.

  9. Um, davebo, points for the Inigo Montoya quote, but no, “you’re wrong”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularity#Secular_trend

    In numerical descriptions, such as of a time series of numbers, a secular trend is the long-term upward or downward trend in the numbers, as opposed to a smaller cyclical variation with a periodic and short-term duration.

    For example, in the business operating cycle, revenue might fluctuate during the fiscal year. Experienced management could ignore the cyclical fluctuation in revenue and concentrate instead on the larger trend from year to year, hoping to see a secular trend upward.

  10. Are my eyes playing tricks on me or is that AL throwing rocks at someone for shoddy reporting?

    Are you ever going to get around to a front-page clarification(correction) on that or are you still investigating? Inquiring minds and all that.

  11. Oh, frontinus, I’m sorry – I never posted the followup from the prepaid calling industry newspaper…

    …”here you go”:http://www.prepaid-press.com/ppp/view_article.php?id=646

    While AT&T has invested money in a very risky environment in order to offer the service, there are questions about the propriety of restricting access to alternative carriers on the payphones AT&T provides in the exchanges. They reportedly have 10 technicians deployed in the region to maintain and operate the system.

    “Although payphone service providers operating in the United States may designate a preferred long distance carrier, including their own, they must still permit callers the option of choosing an alternative carrier. AT&T is acting in the role of a payphone service provider. They’re putting in the facility, but they are blocking access to alternative providers. That would not be permitted under common carrier regulations applicable in the United States,” says Jonathan Marashlian, a regulatory attorney with The Helein Law Group in McLean, Virginia.

    Pattullo also urges that AT&T follow the same rules as they must obey in the US. “In this case, we think it is in the public’s interest that restrictions be lifted to help ease the increasing burdens on our forces overseas and their families here at home.”
    In the US, payphone service providers, PSPs, are allowed to charge a Payphone Compensation Surcharge for these calls. Known as DAC – Dial Around Compensation – its purpose is to pay the operator for the use of their payphone instruments and network. Although DAC has been around since the 1996 Telecommunications Act, it was rarely collected, or paid. The FCC recently increased DAC to almost 50 cents per call, and enacted strenuous enforcement procedures to assure it is paid.
    But, in the US, payphone operators are not allowed to block access to alternative carriers, as AT&T does in Iraq.
    “They get paid for the use of their network, regardless of what long distance network is used to complete the call,” offers Marashlian.

    Ray Horak, a well known telecommunications consultant, author and editor of Newton’s Telecom Dictionary, has a son in the Marine Corps, who has already served one tour of duty in Iraq and is on the way back. “I can see both sides of it, being an ex-AT&T guy,” says Horak. “God bless AT&T for being there and building a network, but shame on them for taking advantage of our people in uniform.”

  12. Now if you can work your back-down from war profiteer to your current position onto the front page….

    Quit nibbling around the edges and eat the whole crap sandwich. You made it afterall.

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