This Sound Off feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about news coverage. Your questions -- which may be edited for space -- are answered today by Senior Vice President Logan Molen, who is covering for the vacationing John Arthur. 

READER: So is swimming not allowed in the Sea of Galilee? The article (Page 3, Aug. 21) does not mention this. If this is the case, they shouldn't have swam there. However ...

This happened a year ago? Why are we wasting time and space printing a story that is a year old? Oh, that's right, it is election year and the Democrats have to find anything else but the economy and national debt to talk about.

Ya know, ya coulda played up the skinny dipping more.

"Republicans want to destroy Medicare and prance around naked in the Sea of Galilee."

Now that's a headline!

--David Moren

MOLEN: Swimming is allowed in the Sea of Galilee, a Christian holy site, but Israeli law prohibits skinny dipping. Politico reports that after a group dinner, more than 20 members of the GOP delegation swam in their street clothes or partially disrobed, and Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder admitted to swimming in the nude, in front of female staffers.

What is newsworthy is that top GOP leadership on the trip -- including Bakersfield's Kevin McCarthy -- expressed outrage immediately after learning of the incident the next day. As Politico reported, "Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was the senior most GOP lawmaker in Israel on the trip, was so upset the dinner devolved into drinking and merrymaking" that he rebuked the 30 lawmakers the morning after the Aug. 18, 2011, incident, saying they were distracting from the mission of the trip."

McCarthy's chief of staff and top health care aide were among those swimming, and McCarthy told The Californian he "had a private talk with them and told them, 'You've got to set a higher standard.'"

I don't know why it took a year for the story to break. But we, and many other mainstream, liberal and conservative news outlets, found the story noteworthy.


READER: I really enjoy reading Scott Cox's travel articles. He has the ability to pull you into his trip. You either remember the places he talks about from being there yourself or look forward to going to the places he mentions that you have not been to.

--Irene Edmonds

MOLEN: Thanks, Irene. You're right that Scott is an adventurous soul who helps us add ideas to our bucket lists.


READER: Congratulations to the Northwest 10-and-under All Star players and coaches for winning the Cal Ripkin World Series. After years of playing ball together, their hard work and dedication has paid off. Once again, you can see what great athletic talent grows in Bakersfield. Also, a big thank you to the parents and grandparents for supporting these talented young men.

The Bakersfield Californian should be ashamed. This prestigious title should have been place on the front page of the sports section with their team picture and not buried back on Page 5 on 8/18. Who cares about "the one that got away" when we should be celebrating "The Big Win 1."

--Linda Jackson

MOLEN: Congratulations to the Northwest All-Stars. This is indeed an accomplishment to celebrate. Story choices are a subjective thing. A page that bores -- even angers -- some readers may thrill others. Each day we have to make tough choices, using general knowledge, local readership data and our guts to gauge what we know our readers prefer and what we think they'd find rewarding.

Our choices for the Sports cover that day included the Dodgers in a heated pennant race, NASCAR closing in on "The Chase," the NFL heating up and a Ridgeview basketball player representing the United States in world championships in Amsterdam.

Our readership data clearly show the first three topics are overwhelmingly popular with our readers, and we believed the Ridgeview senior playing on a world stage was equally interesting. We probably should have done more to refer to the Northwest All-Stars story at the top of Page 5, but I believe the stories that made the cover appealed to the widest number of readers.


READER: What exactly was the point today (Aug. 21) in placing a "police sketch" on Page One when the suspect is already in custody? Was there a particular agenda in play there?

--Jerome S. Kleinsasser

MOLEN: This is a good question, and one we discussed the night before publication. The suspect was arrested after we had initially designed the front page. Because of the high interest in the case, the fact the release of the police sketch triggered multiple phone calls to police and the fact we didn't have a photo of the actual suspect, I made the decision to keep that sketch on the front page. And we have since re-run that image after suggestions by the suspect's mother that her son does not resemble the suspect.

There was no agenda at play, but simply an effort to highlight the arrest of a suspect in a high-profile crime that caused the death of a 71-year-old woman.


READER: I was calling about the Cul De Sac comic. I found it awful. I've been wanting to complain all this time but haven't because then I'd have to explain. No, that doesn't mean I want the basset hound comic back. Why don't you put in Crank Shaft or something that's actually funny? I'm sorry that Mr. Thompson is sick but I'm really glad that I'm not going to be seeing that any more. Thank you.

--Alisson Arnold

READER: I would hope that now that the comic strip Cul de Sac is no longer to be in the paper that maybe you could bring back Fred Basset. Everybody loves that comic strip. I would appreciate it being back in the paper.

--Cheryl Brummett

MOLEN: We're reviewing alternatives, but haven't gotten to the point of reviewing finalists. Stay tuned.