I’m working one of those 10-on, 10-off schedules. That’s 10 years on, 10 years off.

I've returned as The Californian’s metro columnist and today I start my shift.

In 1999, publisher Ginger Moorhouse decided we needed a regular columnist, something Bakersfield hadn't really had since the mid-1960s when Jim Day ended the 30-year-run of his daily chat, "Pipefuls." That was back when The Californian hit your driveway in the afternoon and "pipefuls" suggested something entirely different than it does today.

By that time, a decade into my career here in Bakersfield, I'd already worn most every hat there is to wear in The Californian newsroom, from page designer to music writer, from the sports desk to the business desk to the news desk.

I'd chronicled CSU Bakersfield's 33-0 national championship basketball season, oil's plunge from stratospheric profits to the abrupt thud of mortality, and the Bakersfield Sound's persistently relevant influence as an American musical subgenre. 

Those tasks all involve straight story telling. Minimally adorned information delivery. The job of the columnist is different — it's to add analysis and, yes, opinion. Anyone who reads my Saturday Sound Off column — which will continue, by the way — is undoubtedly certain I'll have no problem dispensing opinion, but the fact of the matter is that I'm cursed with a tendency to see and respect multiple sides of an argument. That can get in the way of someone who's supposed to encourage readers to see things from his perspective. What if I have more than one?

Kern County is a rich vein for journalists. There's so much to celebrate, so much to critique. We've got wealth and influence living just down the street from despair. We've got enough health and vitality to produce NFL quarterbacks, but the kind of environmental blight that fosters alarming rates of asthma and heart disease. We've got outsized national influence in Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, but, as one of the last conservative bastions of the nation's most liberal state, little apparent pull here in California.

So many stories to tell, so little time.

Anyway, I'm baaack. Starting this week, I return to a role that will be familiar to most newspaper readers over 40, the same job I held from 1999 to 2008. I look forward to new audiences, new conversations. Look for me three days a week: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Will this shift last 10 years? We’ll see. There's certainly a decade's work to accomplish. You, the reader, can help.

Got a news tip? A comment? A gripe? Let me hear it.

Robert Price's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Reach him at rprice@bakersfield.com or @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are his own.

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