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.
Reader: If a picture is worth 1,000 words then certainly the multicolored street map printed with the report "Indictment: Gang bust broke down sprawling criminal enterprise" in your Dec. 17 paper, sourced by the Bakersfield Police Department and referenced with gang "turf" designations, is worth 2,000. Unfortunately, after seeing my street inside the colored lines, most of the ones that come to my mind are not fit for print in a family newspaper. Not one word in the entire in-depth, tragic article explains anything about the importance of the map graphic, so why does it accompany the story? Unless there was a hope to spread fear and panic at the expense of maligning a very large swath of Bakersfield east of Highway 99 with a repulsive, cavalier misrepresentation of so many fine families, neighborhoods and businesses!
It is of some comfort to note that within one prominently designated area is the downtown office of the Kern County sheriff and Bakersfield City Hall, with headquarters of the Bakersfield Police Department within spitting distance. I'm all for freedom of the press but what is being insinuated with such a large colorful display is wrong.
— Tony Amarante
Price: That last observation of yours says it all: An institution that has nothing to do with gangs, and may in fact be vehemently anti-gang, such as City Hall, can nevertheless reside in an area that a certain gang might claim as its turf. The same applies to families and neighborhoods: Just because an undesirable element considers an area part of its domain doesn't make that area complicit or under siege. It just means a gang has staked out certain boundaries it theoretically might think it needs to defend.
That said, I completely get your irritation. The dotted lines and color-coded words of our "Gang areas in Bakersfield" map might seem like a broad-brush denigration of good people. It certainly wasn't intended as such.
In a follow-up voicemail (thank you for your courteous and respectful tone), you suggested that we here at The Californian publish our own home addresses so readers "could disparage your neighborhood, too." I won't do that, but I'll tell you that of the eight or so homes I've personally owned, rented or flopped in over my near-30 years here, at least five are in "gangs areas." Colonia, Uptown Bakers, Okie Bakers, West Side Crips and West Side Norte each claim one of my former neighborhoods. And I guarantee each of those neighborhoods has an abundance of fine families living in relative safety and calm. I'm sure that's the case with yours.
Reader: I would like to comment on the so-called drug bust by local law enforcement against the so-called West Side Crips. They seized 2 pounds of crack cocaine and 26 firearms. The most credible bust was the 120 pounds of meth off the streets of Bakersfield.
Let's go after the true traffickers, not some nickel-and-dime operation. Drugs are being manufactured by the drug cartels in Mexico that are made with legal chemical purchases in the United States.
When our press refuses to publish truth because of fear, then our American democracy is slowly eroding. The Californian needs to write a real investigative report on the multimillion-dollar illegal meth trade in Kern County.
— Bill Guerrero
Price: The journalistic investigation you're describing would take incredible time, resources and connections. The New York Times and three or four others might have the resources and depth of experience to penetrate Mexican organized crime, but we're in the same boat, in terms of those resources, with the other 1,300 daily newspapers in the U.S. today.
Fear does not enter the equation, but perhaps it should. A total of 65 journalists and media workers were killed in 2017, according to Reporters Without Borders. The organization said 60 percent of those killed were murdered and 326 others are being detained.
Of those 65, 39 “were murdered, and deliberately targeted because their reporting threatened political, economic, or criminal interests.” Ten of the reporters killed this year were women, double the previous year’s total.
This isn't the sort of profession that attracts a lot of cowards.
But to your point: Busting local drug dealers is hardly a waste of time. Law enforcement will try to shake out their suppliers, which gets them closer to the honchos you describe. And then there's the small matter of bringing to justice the people who shot and killed two small children in separate gang incidents this year.
Reader: In the next election cycle, I hope you remind voters that their congressman, Kevin McCarthy, led the House vote for the new tax bill that hurts California citizens more than those of any other state, although New York and New Jersey are also signaled out.
— Paul Laveron and Dan Francisco
Price: We won't have to. McCarthy will almost certainly have an opponent in 2018 who will point out the specifics of his voting record. But I'm not sure whether, by next November, voters will have a firm grasp of how the tax bill has hurt or helped them. For one thing, it doesn't take effect until 2019.
Reader: Last Saturday, a reader in Sound Off said that her fourth-grade teacher taught "Never end a sentence with a preposition." That brought to mind the occasion in which someone made the same criticism to Sir Winston Churchill. His response was something like: "That's the type of criticism up with which I will not put." Or should that be "Shall not put"?
— Byron Ayme
Reader: Not to put too fine a point on it (what does that actually mean?) but, if you had written "to whom I am referring" in the article referenced by Agnes Scrivano, we'd all still be laughing. I blame it on the British.
Thank you for your column.
— Midge Bradford
Price: To paraphrase Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I blame it on Canada. And that concludes our much-too-drawn-out discussion of "who" and "whom."