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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"Harveys" Of Our Lives, Or The Continuing Drama Of Michael Hiltzik

Hugh finally got the LA Times to cough up their "Code of Ethics," and it doesn't look good for Michael Hiltzik. At least it wouldn't look good if Hiltzik was working for an honest newspaper, and not some fluffy cage liner on the newsstand like the Times is. Below are the guidelines. All emphasis is mine. (And it should be noted that these are the 1999 guidelines, as Hugh points out.)

The goal of the Los Angeles Times is to publish a newspaper of the highest quality. This requires The Times to be, above all else, a principled newspaper. Making it so is the responsibility of every staff member.

So, how principled is it for someone to turn around, create two phony names, and run with those "fans" in the comments section of his blog, attacking his critics, and parroting his talking points?

In deed and in appearance, journalists at The Times must keep themselves and the newspaper above reproach.

If you know of anything that might cast a shadow on the paper's reputation, you are expected to inform a supervising editor.

The standards outlined here apply to all editorial employees and to all work they produce for The Times, whether it appears in print, on television or on the Web.

Yes, this includes the Internet, too. The Internet is not some imaginary group. It's real. It's active. And it has over 36 million blogs tracked and updated daily. These people look out for people like Michael Hiltzik, and cry foul when they see something they don't like or don't trust. Patterico saw that, and investigated. He found out that not only was he creating these names to help on his site, but that he also used these names to attack detractors on their sites.

A crucial goal of our news and feature reporting apart from editorials, columns, criticism and other content that is expressly opinionated is to be nonideological. This is a tall order. It requires us to recognize our own biases and stand apart from them.

People who will be shown in an adverse light in an article must be given a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. This means making a good-faith effort to give the subject of allegations or criticism sufficient time and information to respond substantively. Whenever possible, the reporter should meet face-to-face with the subject in a sincere effort to understand his or her best arguments.

For him, does this only count when he looks himself in the mirror in the morning? Or are his co-workers listening to the conversations and arguments he's having with himself at his desk? That's the only "face-to-face" meetings he could have with Mikeyoshi or Nofanofcablecos.

We are committed to informing readers as completely as possible; the use of anonymous sources compromises this important value.

Compromise ... and we're not talking about French capitulation here. We're talking about exposing the paper to a lapse in journalistic ethics. And that's what Michael Hiltzik did do by using those phony names.

Relying in print on unnamed sources should be a last resort, subject to the following guidelines:

When we use anonymous sources, it should be to convey important information to our readers. We should not use such sources to publish material that is trivial, obvious or self-serving.

Whoops. He can't argue that he didn't use those name in a self-serving fashion. He used them to convey "information" bolstering his argument to his critics commenting on his site. He also used them to attack said critics. To me, that's pretty selfish and petty for a grown man, let alone a "professional journalist."

Sources should never be permitted to use the shield of anonymity to voice speculation or to make ad hominem attacks.

Damn. Strike Two. Those "anonymous" names in the comments did make ad hominem attacks against his critics. And not just on his site, but on others, as well.

An unnamed source should have a compelling reason for insisting on anonymity, such as fear of retaliation, and stories should state those reasons when they are relevant.

The reporter and editor must be satisfied that the source has a sound factual basis for his or her assertions. Some sources quoted anonymously might tend to exaggerate or overreach precisely because they will not be named.

And what was the "factual basis" that Mikeyoshi and Nofanofcablecos had? Neither conveyed anything further than trivial points. Most of the time they were used to attack critics. This hardly registers as what was laid out above.

Reporters should be extremely circumspect about how and where they store information that might identify an anonymous source. Many electronic records, including e-mail, can be subpoenaed from and retrieved by non-newsroom employees.

We live and work in a media environment suffused with hyperbole. It is The Times intention to stand distinctly apart from that world and speak straightforwardly to readers.

Fabrication of any type is unacceptable. We do not create composite characters. We do not use pseudonyms.

Strike Three! This is exactly what he did. He did create and use pseudonyms. Look, I write under the "pen name" of "Publius II" for the sheer fact that I don't like to be known. My friends and collegues know me. My fiancee had better know me. (We've been living together long enough that she better not feign ignorance; this isn't 50 First Dates here.) But that's for my benefit, and our readers obviously know that when they read who authored the pieces. Likewise, the same goes for her when she signs her pen name "The Bunny." (Hey, she likes rabbits; what can I say.)

There may be instances when hyperbole or sarcasm are used for comic or literary effect. Columnists may use those devices to make a point, as may humorists. They should be employed with care.

The Times expects its editorial staff to behave with dignity and professionalism. We do nothing while gathering the news that we would be ashamed to see in print or on television. We do not let the behavior of the pack set standards for us.

In general, we identify ourselves as staff members when covering news events.

The emergence of blogs has created potential quandaries for staff members who want to express themselves through that medium. No matter how careful Times bloggers might be to distinguish their personal work from their professional affiliation with the paper, outsiders are likely to see them as intertwined. As a result, any staff member who seeks to create a personal blog must clear it with a supervisor; approval will be granted only if the proposed blog meets the paper's journalistic standards. When approval is granted, staff members should take care not to write anything in their blogs that would not be acceptable in the newspaper. Staff members should observe the same principle when contributing to blogs other than their own.

And he didn't abide by those standards. By making up phony people, Michael "Harvey" Hiltzik violated the rules above--those clearly violated I have noted. And while the idea of "contributing" to another person's blog could hardly be construed as such when commenting, it still violates the standards laid out. That is especially true when one is caught at it, as Patterico did with "Harvey, Jr." here. Michael Hiltzik isn't a journalist.

He is, in fact, a pseudo-journalist, as described by John Carroll, former editor of the LA Times.

"What we're seeing is a difference between journalism and pseudo-journalism, between journalism and propaganda. The former seeks earnestly to serve the public. The latter seeks to manipulate it."

He made up people to manipulate the debate on his site. Sure, his facts are wonky. He's been called on them before. But to invent people who support your POV (obviously they wouldn't disagree, right. Even "Harvey, Jr." needs friends), that attack your critics, and even provide you with information goes a bit beyond the Code of Ethics for the LA Times. It lands right in line with what John Carroll calls pseudo-journalism. And it shows that he can't even own up to his breech of ethics.

Hugh and I differ on the approach that should be taken with him.

Let Hiltzik be Hiltzik, and come clean about the paper and its deep commitment to the left and the left's agenda. It is ex-editor John Carroll who is the embarassment for spreading that piffle about pseudo-journalists versus the Times. Michael Hiltzik may be the most honest guy at the Times.

Give him back his blog and give up the absurd pretensions.

The Times will admit thier commitment to the Left and it's agenda the day Hiltzik steps forward and admits he's "Harvey, Jr." It won't happen. I disagree that he's the most honest guy at the Times. Though they have had their share of winners in the past (Barbara Demick, anyone?). I think he's a piece of trash, and a stain on the idea of journalism. I also believe he's completely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.

He came on the scene proclaiming to be a blogger. That was shot right to hell with his interview with Hugh back in December of 2005. And the beatings continued to pour in from the blogosphere proving that he was anything but a blogger. He was the literal "wolf in sheep's clothing" to the readers of the LA Times. Now he's been outed for what he is. I think the Times ought to cut him loose. He's not an asset to them any longer. He's a liability. And if the Times had any sense, they'd cut all their liabilities now before it's too late. With readership and subscriptions declining, the Times must cut their losses, and move on. At the very least, termination seems to be in order for breeching the Code of Ethics; not once, not twice, but three times with one entry into his blog.

Publius II


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