Saturday, April 22, 2006

Michael Hiltzik Should Have Been Suspended, If He Tried To Falsify His Blogging Identity

L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik may be one of the paper's best, but the editors of the Times were correct in suspending his blog, and later his regular Business section column if he tried to use a false identity to get his views out.

The least readers ought to expect is that those who they read are who they claim to be.

Hiltzik has been in trouble before for alleged computer violations. He was brought home from the Moscow bureau some time back after fellow staffers accused him of spying on their e-mails.

I do not believe that concealing one's identity is part of the rights of journalists. Keeping confidential sources is one thing, but writing anonymously is quite another. And Dean Baquet, the editor, is correct in saying such transgressions would destroy the credibility of Hiltzik as a business columnist.

The Internet is often of suspicious reliability. It is frequently difficult to tell where something is coming from, much less whether it is correct. So I believe it is incumbent on those of us who do blog to at least admit who we are.

It is different for those wishing to comment anonymously on a blog. In the interest of open exchanges, I join many other bloggers who accept this, although some of the comments tend to be insulting.

Another point may be pertinent here. I don't believe papers like the Times are being completely sincere in presenting blogs on their websites, if this is to somehow pretend that the bloggers represent independent points of view. There is something canned about these blogs. They are not really independent if the staff member appearing is told what not to say or write about.

Hiltzik may have chafed under these circumstances. Still, he was wrong, or appears to be, to get around that with anonymous blogging.

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