This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian’s news coverage. Your questions — which may be edited for space — are answered here each Saturday by The Californian’s Robert Price.
This column was published Aug. 26, 2017.
Reader: That's it. I am done with The Californian and I will bring to the board of the Kern High School District a motion to stop all relations with TBC — advertising, sports, and requests for comments by staff. TBC printed these insults and lies so they own it. Their local columnist does not get to call the president of the U.S. a racist ... (in) a community that voted for this president ... and would stand up for every president, no matter the party, against such ugly divisive insults as this. Who is this racist Danny Morrison anyway?
— Kern High School District trustee Mike Williams, via Facebook
Price: Mike Williams launched a Facebook attack on The Californian this past week because of his displeasure over columnist Danny Morrison's Aug. 22 commentary criticizing President Trump. Williams wisely modified the post, removing his call for a KHSD boycott. I applaud his decision to do so.
But the brief controversy, which roiled across Facebook on Tuesday and Wednesday, got me thinking about how the newspaper and the school district have some significant things in common.
The Californian is a general circulation newspaper. It serves readers of every race, ethnicity, religion, party and ideology. The Kern High School District is a public school district, the largest high school district in the state. It serves students of every race, ethnicity, religion, party and ideology. Both organizations have a responsibility to serve their customers and clients in a balanced, even-handed way.
For The Californian that means giving voice to multiple world views, including views individual readers might not agree with. For the school district that means turning students into informed, civically engaged citizens. How does the district do that? By encouraging students to pay attention to the national conversation and decide for themselves how they feel about issues.
And that just happens to be the single most important service a daily newspaper can provide.
For a high school district trustee like Williams to try to get the KHSD to shut out that conversation isn't just short-sighted, it's dereliction of duty. Fortunately, Williams seems to have realized that and took a step back.
Morrison's column is opinion — one man's commentary. All that his editors ask of him is that he base his opinions on facts. Editors demand that of all columnists, past and present, local and national. In this case Morrison criticized the president for his perceived attitude about race. That shouldn't shock anyone — President Trump's controversy-stirring comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., was a top-of-the-news conversation across the country throughout the previous week. If anything, Morrison's column was late to the party.
Don't like Morrison's take? Turn the page — literally. And voila! There, in the top right-hand corner of the right-hand-side page is Stephen Moore, also writing about the president's attitudes about race — and taking the exact opposite view: "Trump's real record on race."
That's what we do here -- facilitate dialog and debate.
That's what the best high school government classes do too. I'm proud to say the two high school graduates I helped raise are well equipped for such debate, and for that I thank the Kern High School District and its fine teachers.
Reader: I know you will not return a call to me, so I will just express my opinion right now. Why are you people trying to destroy The Californian? I've been reading it since Walter Kane was the publisher. He was great! We has a good paper.
Now when I look at the Opinion page, I see nothing but "trash Trump, trash Trump, trash Trump." I'm sorry, I don't appreciate that.
— Ms. Ratliff
Price: Walter Kane, who was hired in 1922 and became the newspaper's general manager in 1946, ran The Californian during a time of unprecedented general prosperity and national accomplishment. Those pre-Watergate, pre-CNN days were more innocent, less cynical. But government and business leaders got away with a lot more too.
In Kane's case, he was said to have had an unusual agreement regarding police reports with two chiefs of the Bakersfield Police Department, Horace V. Grayson (1946-1966) and John M. Towle (1966-1973).
"The reports were (culled)," said Mary K. Shell, the former Bakersfield mayor and Kern County supervisor, who was also a reporter for both The Californian and a competing paper, The News Bulletin. "Grayson ruled Bakersfield with an iron fist, and he had sort of an understanding, at least with Walter Kane."
"That's not a bad appraisal of it," said Harold Bergen, who was Bakersfield's city manager in 1963-1980, and a city engineer for several years before that. "It went both ways. Do you follow?"
The reason, newsroom employees surmised, was because city government and business leaders of prominence were sometimes questioned about illicit activities and simply couldn't have their names published in The Californian's arrest reports.
Today the media is more aggressive and, I would hope, Ms. Ratliff, less willing to go along with funny business.
Reader: Just a quick kudos note to say how much I enjoyed your fine, thorough piece on the 1952 earthquake up here in Tehachapi.
I’ve lived here a bit over 25 years now and never saw a report as well done as yours -- mixing history, photos, and local remembrance anecdotes.
You also answered a puzzling question I had about the mix of information I heard over the years concerning the date of the quake: I have August 22 crossed out in my notes and July 21 penciled in; now I know why my dates got a bit mixed up and were annotated that way from what locals had told me at different times.
Your article is definitely a keeper and, in fact, I need to make a few copies to send to some friends elsewhere who will really enjoy your account of that slice of local history.
If old Bill Mead (friend and longtime editor/publisher of Tehachapi News) were still alive, he’d be praising your work too.
You done good.
— Dr. Ed Young
Price: All the praise for our outstanding work on the local earthquakes belongs to two of my distinguished colleagues, Steven Mayer, who did the writing and reporting, and Christine Bedell, who edited the package and managed all of the reader submissions. I agree, it was great reading. Thanks to all who contributed.
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