Buy Photo

Californian executive editor John Arthur.

READER: It's good that The Californian challenged the accuracy of the United Farm Worker's spokesperson regarding (the recent) protest at Rep. Kevin McCarthy's office. But as a former journalism instructor, I am appalled at the news writers' description of the UFW's statements as "inflammatory and downright inaccurate."

If that was true, then someone else should say it, not the news writers. Their job is to get both sides and let the reader decide whether or not the statements were inaccurate or inflammatory.

If Laura Liera and Christine Bedell had handed their story to me in a classroom, I would have given them a C- or worse. They need to keep their opinions out of their news articles....

Mark Day

Vista, Calif.

(Day is author of Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers, Praeger, 1971)

ARTHUR: It is absolutely our job to characterize the tone and accuracy of the UFW statement or any other statement.

The article provided a number examples of the statement's inaccuracies:

* The union news release Wednesday night (Nov. 6) referenced "Bakersfield police intimidating and locking in more than a dozen of the activists and several members of the press inside McCarthy's office."

The next day the UFW's own spokeswoman acknowledged the inaccuracy:

"Police were there, standing in front of the door, but the doors weren't really locked," said UFW Communications Director Maria Machuca. "The police were polite and there was no confrontation between the police or the group."

Yet as the reporters noted, the phrase "women locked inside the office" was used five times throughout three news releases Wednesday night and Thursday.

* Two UFW news releases said "for hours, police denied the women access to food, water and medication." But the UFW admitted later that the women were allowed to go outside to have something to eat or drink -- but they would not be allowed back in the office.

Police said McCarthy's staff didn't want food in the lobby. The told the women that after 5 p.m., they could stay inside the lobby, but if they left they couldn't go back in.

* Angelica Salas, president of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, was quoted in one UFW news release as saying rather than explain his position to reform advocates, McCarthy has "chosen to hold us and immigration reform hostage." Machuca later said the women "were not held hostage -- it was voluntary to stay inside the office."

The article noted that statements by McCarthy's office weren't wholly accurate, either, in saying the protesters were mainly from the Los Angeles area and that he's listening to his constituents, not outside interest groups.

The UFW said the women at his office "come from San Francisco, San Diego and right here from Bakersfield." Also, local people for months have held rallies here urging McCarthy to put comprehensive immigration reform up for a vote.

As for use of the word "inflammatory:"

The word means "tending to arouse anger, hostility, passion" and I don't think it's much of a stretch to suggest that the repeated untruths and exaggerations in the UFW's cascade of press releases were designed to arouse passions among those who support immigration reform. The language was provocative (adj.: acting as a stimulus or incitement, esp to anger...) : "police intimidating and locking in" protesters, "police denied the women access to food, water and medication," McCarthy in effect "held us hostage."

The UFW overreached. The next day it honorably corrected its mistakes.


READER: I work for a vendor of bakery ingredients in Kern County. We specialize in distribution to bakeries, donut shops, Hispanic panaderias, restaurants, and food service.

On Monday, several of my clients had comments and/or complaints from their retail customers regarding the cover of the Friday, November 8, issue of The Californian. On the cover, beneath the title "FDA's New Objective, Cut the Trans Fat" there was a warning sign image pasted over two raised donuts. Retail customers were questioning if products sold to them had trans fats, unlike the signage posted that say they do not.

[The cover article was about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcing it will require the entire food industry to phase out trans fats.]

In the State of California it is already the law (for) over three years; no oils used for baking, frying, or cooking commercially may contain trans fat. All ingredients used to make donuts (including mixes) contain no trans fat. It is illegal to make any products in bakeries with ingredients that contain trans fat and they are inspected on a regular basis. Therefore, no pastries made and sold by our local bakers to the general public contain this "artery-clogging" ingredient, not even donuts.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the image on Friday's cover may have conveyed the incorrect message in regards to this issue that the baking industry in California and local shops have already addressed.

The FDA is simply applying what California has already done to the rest of the country on a federal level.

Alex Raffta

ARTHUR: The reader is correct.

California took its first step to eliminate trans fats when the legislature in 2008 passed a law requiring restaurants in the state to stop cooking with trans fats, except in tiny amounts, by 2010.

We were negligent in not pointing out that, as in many areas, California was first and that trans fats already are banned here.

I'm sorry if our failure to make this distinction caused difficulties for your business and customers. My only lame excuse would be that there are so many "California exceptions" that sometimes it is hard to remember them all. (The latest is in regard to the new health care law, which is being administered here by the state, not the federal government.)

Our apologies.