He’s Back! LAT Sockpuppet Master Hiltzik Gets His Column Back

Patterico points out to me that LA Times sockpuppet master Michael Hiltzik is getting his business column back.

Here’s Times Reader’s Rep Jamie Gold:

A 27-year Times veteran, Michael has distinguished himself since returning to Business a year ago (after a brief stint in Sports) with smart, analytical stories, many of which have been followed by our competitors.

Now the facts of that little hiatus were somewhat more complex. Here’s former editor Dean Baquet (as cited at Patterico):

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.

Well, hey – Baquet’s gone, so why does that matter?

Well, in a comment I left on Gold’s blog – a comment that has yet to see the light of day – I said:

“It’s somehow perfect timing that a dishonest reporter is brought back to cover business at a time when dishonesty is so much a part of the story.

Look, I’d kind of like the LA Times to survive; when will it become apparent to the powers-that-be there that what you are selling me is credible information.

And reporters like Hiltzik – who have shown that they have a – broad – set of values about candor and honesty don’t help convince people like me that the apples in your produce stand don’t have worms in them.

Oh – and were you not going to mention why?


The media keep thinking they can sell us catfood and tell us it’s sushi. Until they stop doing that, the floor is going to slope downward pretty steeply for them as institutions.

That’s depressing to me. Los Angeles needs a strong voice. It hasn’t had one for years, and it looks today like it will be years until we get one.

4 thoughts on “He’s Back! LAT Sockpuppet Master Hiltzik Gets His Column Back”

  1. This circumstance underlines the discrepancy between the ‘role’ of the media as we would like to believe it to be, and the simple economics involved. ‘Purveyors of truth’ is the institutional myth we subscribe to, but there is always a competing goal of profitability, or at the very least subsistence (note the advertising at the left margin) to contend with. Someone believes that circulation will benefit if this reporter is assigned to the business beat, and that is basically what matters. The fact that experienced media personnel fully anticipate such a non-discriminating public is the the other necessary ingredient, and sadder aspect, of this sad tale.

  2. JerryT @2: Tribune Company, the owner of the LA times, IS bankrupt. It filed
    for Chapter 11 two weeks ago.

    I certainly would not want the job of the bankruptcy trustees trying to figure out how to monetize the Tribune’s ‘assets’. But there’s certainly some residual value in milking the LAT subscriber base, if publishing expenses and subscriber acquisition expenses are slashed to the bone. Any sort of journalistic “ethics” are likely less important than being willing to work cheap.

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