The difficulty the Times faces is that it has an adopted and published Code of Ethics, and has probably applied the Code in other circumstances. There is “case law” in other words –precedents for disciplining past transgressions against the Code.
Even though there are voices arguing for a pardon –Patterico and me, to name two with some standing as we were slagged by Hiltzik anonymously– the lawyers are asking each other how do they look the other way when the Code says “all Times products alike.”
Whatever happens, the Times needs to make a detailed, public report of its findings and its reasonings, as it did with the famous Staples case. Of course the Staples imbroglio was trumped up in the newsroom in order to damage management the old MSM guard distrusted. Hiltzik is one of the old guard, and the irony may be that the breast beaters then are cornered by their “off with their heads” rhetoric from that episode.
The best response is to give up the absurd pretensions to objectivity and fairness. The Times is neither. Michael Hiltzik is their poster child, not their bad boy.