If He’s a Pulitzer Winner, Call Me a Citizen Journalist


In every Greek Tragedy, the protagonist has a tragic flaw that causes his downfall. I don’t see a protagonist here. I see someone who never outgrew schoolyard.

Last night the LA Times suspended a Pulitzer Prize winner’s blog for something he did that any 7-year-child knows isn’t right.

His name is Michael Hiltzik, and he lied by pretending to be someone else.

He’s a journalist, and he lied in print. He wrote comments under pseudonyms–nice ones on his own blog and not so nice ones on blogs that had content that disagreed with the content on his.

Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine has a fine discussion of the issues around this event. Here’s a snip that makes the issue clear.

The bottom line: Journalists who are afraid to speak as themselves in public. They thus separate themselves from the public they serve: scared of us or feeling superior to us, but not among us in any case. That is a mistake and an insult.

. . . here’s Hiltzik choosing to enter into a conversation with the public — the act of blogging is precisely that — but then pulling back to refuse to interact with honestly, at eye level. It’s an act of lying and of cowardice.

He complains that others online hide behind anonymity. And I agree with him in my general mistrust of the anonymous. But he doesn’t get to hide behind that. He has a byline and a podium and he can’t dash in and out of the closet, try as he might. –Jeff Jarvis, The first layer of transparency: Identity

Is the mainstream media not paying journalists enough to find and report the news? How did their egos, opinions, and insecurities get bigger than the stories that they relate? Sadly, Hiltzik seems to be not the only LA Times employee who was doing it.

It Doesn’t Matter Why

The LA Times has a policy that editors and reporters always identify themselves. The policy doesn’t matter. Even at age 7, we knew what it meant to stand behind what you say and what being “two faced” meant too. You can say a lot if you don’t hang your name on it. In my book, it’s a cowardly thing for anyone to do.

To do it on the Internet, thinking that people can’t trace you takes cowardly and adds stupidity or arrogance–who knows which–into the mix. It’s being a bully when no one is looking; then finding out you just beat up the sister of the biggest hero on the block. Not a good idea.

Seems strange that a guy who can win a Pulitzer Prize–Doesn’t that require research?–has reached a point at which he didn’t bother, didn’t know, didn’t care or was so emotional that he didn’t think about his actions.

Maybe he thought he didn’t have to.

Roger L. Simon Sees the Irony Too

Last night when I heard about this, my mind kept returning to posts I wrote earlier. Even the title of this one is a reference to a post I wrote about how the mainstream media seems to look down on bloggers as “less than” the professionals that they hold themselves up to be. Roger L. Simon has an analysis on Mr. Hiltzik’s situation. What a relief it was to know that he also sees what I see. Mr. Simon ends his commentary with this insight on the irony that Mr. Hiltzik’s situation shouts out.

It may be that blogging is more the big leagues than the mainstream media. In blogging, you’re out here on your own. It takes self-discipline that is not as necessary in mainstream venues where you are (sometimes) back-stopped by editors and by the “reputation” of your journal (diminishing though that may be). Perhaps Hiltzik, a relative newcomer to the online world, was simply in over his head. –Roger L. Simon, April 21, 2006: Playing Freud with Hiltzik

The mainstream media doesn’t know everything.

To Mr. Glocer and Mr. Butterworth

Meanwhile Editor&Publisher reports that the New York Post officially said, “Good-bye, ” to Jared Paul Stern. You remember him. He’s the guy who thought being a bully was a good idea.

The mainstream media is starting to look like an unsupervised schoolyard to me.

Mr. Glocer, Mr. Butterworth, I take it back. Call me a citizen journalist. Have your say about bloggers. I’m pleased to have both of those titles today.

Fear and misplaced values can make people do strange and self-destructive things.

–ME “Liz” Strauss

Related articles
Who’s a Citizen Journalist?
Tom Glocer Don’t Spin Stories to My Friends
Why MSM Are Afraid of Blogs — and Should Be


  1. says

    Once lost integrity is hard to find again.

    Simple but heartfelt apologies are the best way to start the restoration process but should be administered quickly.

    As time passes the cynicism (and in this case ridicule) builds to the point where those receiving the apologies will not believe them.

  2. says

    Hi prying1,
    It seems that we’re a long way from apologies. I’ve only heard excuses and reasons. Things such as anonymity is the way other folks choose and perhaps his teenage son really did it. It’s sad. He’s refused to comment since the even has been made public.

    He commented too often before perhaps.

  3. says


    I think it would be more apt to compare page six and its printed gossip counterparts with blog gossip sites. Now, which, would you guess is more or less accurate and more or less accountable?

    According to legal hearsay in Hollywood, you can actually believe most of what you read in the National Inquirer, because the liability is so great, everything is double sourced.

    Now, if you spend a while monitoring certain gossip-blogs, consider the amount of material that gets removed…


  4. says

    Hi Trevor,
    Great to see you!
    I was wondering whether you’d stop by to say hello.

    I’m not sure to what you’re referring. exactly. That’s a sincere comment, I’m not being coy.

  5. Trevor Butterworth says

    Sorry for not being more explicit: Liz, your comment on Jared Stern contained a category error. Compare gossip stringers with gossip bloggers, not gossip stringers with citizen journalists like yourself.

    And if you think this past week has been bad for the mainstream media, go read the very first wayward press columns in the New Yorker, written by Robert Benchley under the pseudonym Guy Fawkes. Media misbehavior today is kids stuff compared with most of what went on in the past.

    Brian, I know your comment is supposed to rile me, but all I can say is that the next major study on blogging (which will appear in May, I believe) won’t be giving me any cause for tectonic concern…:)



  6. says

    Thank you for the clarification. Though I think the comparison is assumption on your part to what was only an addtinal observation on my own.

    As far as comparing the present to the past . . . we could do that in politics, economics, sociology, probably any domain and find a similar situation or its opposite. *she shrugs* I’ve celebrated Guy Fawkes Day for the guy who had the real name. That’s equally as applicable. Well, no it’s not. I didn’t misbehave. :)

    I do enjoy your visits, Trevor. Your insights always spark my thinking and make my eyes sparkle at the same time.


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