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: Congratulations on the "apology tour" to conservatives for dumping USA Today from your pages. You are now scraping the bottom of the barrel using the toilet brush to come up with a Bakersfield-approved conservative columnist. How about Michael Savage or Rush Limbaugh or Dinesh D'Souza? These are dingbats who would definitely win Bakersfield reader approval.
In any event, Mr. Price, your tenure has been long, so listen again, carefully, to your line: "We're very much interested in serving the predominant conservative demographic of this region." That kind of apology definitely will help your cause with this dwindling demographic.
— Panfilo Fuentes
Price: Pete, the rest of the paragraph that you've quoted from last week's Sound Off is: "We’re also interested in serving the liberal and moderate demos. In other words, as many readers as possible in this culturally and ideologically diverse community."
Thank you for reminding me that my "tenure has been long" — a graceful way, I suppose, of pointing out that my bald spot in back is growing.
We'll pass on conservative pundits Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh and Dinesh D'Souza, none of whom write columns that I'm aware of. Readers also suggested, seriously in their cases, that we add Michelle Malkin. We'll pass on her, too. Though some may find her commentaries on Fox News appealing, her columns tend to be too long for our available space, among other concerns. Find her columns online at creators.com/author/michelle-malkin and perhaps you'll see what I'm referring to.
But we are taking some different conservative columnists for test drives, as another reader suggested last week. Next week, and over the next few weeks, look for columns by L. Brent Bozell, Star Parker, Stephen Moore and perhaps others. Let us know what you think. Yes, even you, Pete.
Reader: Kudos to Harold Pierce for his coverage of the drastic situation in the area of special education, both locally and at the national level ("The price of special education," June 25). This is an education issue that Donald Trump and Education Secretary Bettsy DeVos seem to care little about as they are drastically cutting funding for this important group of students.
Also, thanks to Jose Gaspar for his telling the story of my early days in the political tundra ("Local pioneer Ray Gonzales broke barriers in Kern County and beyond," June 26). Thanks, Harold, Jose and The Californian.
— Ray Gonzales, Ph.D.
Reader: The column on Ray Gonzales by Jose Gaspar was nice to read. I went to elementary school with Ray at Our Lady of Guadalupe School taught by the Sisters of Mercy. One year we had a Christmas program and Ray played the part of Uncle Scrooge. His lines were well-rehearsed and his performance was laudatory. I always believed his thespian talents would take him to Broadway or Hollywood. What did I know?
— Anthony Bernal
Reader: The front page article on autism ("The price of special education," June 25) incorrectly mentioned that vaccines are a suspected cause of autism, a totally disproven and discredited assumption.
All the writer has done is added credence to a harmful fallacy.
A shame, too, as the article is about a very important issue. I am sure you are among the many (including myself) that look back on our childhood and wonder where all of these autistic kids came from since we never saw any when we were in grade school. It is a mystery that researchers keep trying to figure out.
— Kerry McGill
Price: The complete sentence was "Experts can only speculate as to why autism diagnoses are on the rise — they’ve been attributed to everything from genetic deficiencies to better detection to vaccines." And that's a true statement. Some people blame vaccines for the rise in autism — a pervasive, harmful fallacy that health care professionals have consistently and often passionately worked to overcome.
Harold Pierce could have paused his narrative to point that out, but it would have destroyed his flow. It might have been better to either leave out the vaccine reference or come back to it later with some context. But, sadly, the vaccines-cause-autism fallacy is out there and has to be addressed.
Reader: Regarding this June 27 headline: "Live west of Highway 99 and expect your kids to go to Centennial? They might be heading to Oildale instead."
Why does it say Oildale and not North High?
— Josh Bertey
Price: Education reporter Harold Pierce, who wrote the article, also contributed the headline. He volunteered this explanation:
"I chose to go with 'Oildale' instead of 'North High' because of the impact. Not everybody knows where North High is, but everybody instantly recognizes Oildale. Some Facebook commenters said we used the reference to Oildale to degrade the people living there. Forgive us for using the name of the town where North is located. I think that's people's biases painting a picture.
"I actually like North High and think it's a great school. I've had, for the most part, nothing but positive interactions with students and staff there. But when people buy homes in the Fruitvale/Olive Drive area, they don't expect to send their kids to Oildale. They just don't."
Reader: I'm a retired school teacher and junior varsity basketball coach from North High and I'm 86.
Trevor Horn's article about the Braxton Huggins boy was the best article I have ever read in The Californian for sports ("Hope through hoops: How Braxton Huggins has gone from the east side of Bakersfield to a budding star in the college basketball world," June 24). The very best. Trevor has a real talent — the story is so interesting, all the way to the end. I'm an old man, 86, but I can still read and his is the best sports article I have ever read about a person. Thank you, Trevor.
— Tom McQuinn
Price: Trevor told me he cried when he heard your voicemail message, Mr. McQuinn, and his wife cried when he shared it with her. Weddings, romantic comedies and schmaltzy greeting cards have the same effect on him.
But his article about the former Mira Monte basketball star's challenging youth and recent decision to transfer from New Mexico State to Fresno State was indeed great work, perhaps his best.
Reader: Here's a simple way to solve the bickering among letter writers on the subject of lying ("Sound Off: Where was front-page coverage of previous liars?," June 24): First, one must operate from the premise that all politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, are liars. Before running for public office, they must be certified in "Lying, Spinning, and Obfuscation While Keeping a Straight Face 101A." Some will complete this course with honors, others may be simply average.
Second, choose to support the candidate whose lies are the least offensive and most palatable to your lifestyle and personal belief system. View lying as a perfected art form.
Third, don't donate money to political campaigns. You've already paid up the kazoo in taxes to fund the liar candidate who comes across as most sincere in voicing your values, then conveniently forgets them once in office. This skill takes practice, which explains why some have been in Congress for many years.
I hope these tips help, Robert. You do an awesome job with your responses to the readers' letters.
— Lynne Mercer
Price: Very helpful, Lynn. Your sarcasm rings with a depressing degree of truth.
Reader: On the subject of columnists, I particularly enjoy reading Garrison Keillor. He's comfortably humorous and brings a chuckle or two to the Opinion page. I hope he is included on your page whenever possible.
— Debby Rodrigues
Reader: Robert, you are the best. Forget Laura Ingraham and Michelle Malkin. Debra Saunders and Jennifer Rubin will do just fine. So, thanks for keeping up the good work and keeping Trumpsters in line in Bakersfield.
— Leslie Eyraud
Reader: The fireworks between Lois Henry and her adversaries is as much fun to watch as the ones at the stadium. Attaboy, girl! Go get 'em.
— Ken Cannon
Reader: Love your comments to readers! Kinda like tight-rope walking — trying to please readers on different sides of the issues? Keep up the good work!
— Cynthia Saalfield
Price: Thanks, Cynthia. I'm happy to see you're still reading The Californian a decade after moving 1,500 miles away. You're one of at least two readers in today's Sound Off who've done so. You can take the girl out of Bakersfield but you can't take the Bakersfield out of the girl. Woman. Whatever.
Reader: Thank you for publishing the article by the three Washington Post journalists, "Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia," on June 24. I had just read the compelling article online, laying out the timeline details of the Russian attempt to influence our American election outcome, and there it was — in MY local paper. I'm very proud of The Bakersfield Californian! I see a Pulitzer for those writers and WaPo, and I pray they will follow this the whole nine yards ... and that The Bakersfield Californian will keep us apprised.
Kevin McCarthy, I hope you are reading your local paper, too.
— Ann Gallon
Reader: What were you thinking? Your June 24 paper contained a huge story about the Russians tampering with the presidential election, by far the most legitimate writing I have seen on this topic to date.
You relegated what could be the most comprehensive, compelling, significant story The Washington Post has published since Watergate to page A6 so you can use the front page to tell us ... it's still hot?
— Greg Lamb
Price: There are two ways to look at that, Greg. The flip side of our decision to remain hyper-local and focus on the one thing everyone in Kern County seems to have been talking about — that weeklong string of 107-plus days — is that we devoted far more space to a national story than is typical.
There was some discussion about whether to put the Post story on the front page. In the end we opted to direct readers to the story in our Nation section with a front-page "reefer." We published more than 4,200 words of the story — a work of journalism that, in my mind, indeed makes the Post a likely favorite to win the Pulitzer Prize for reporting.
The local vs. national question is a daily balancing act. Local almost always wins.
Reader: Thank you for moving the Cryptoquip to a different spot! I saw that someone had sounded off (before I did!) about that little hole messing up the puzzle, so now it's better. I always look forward to doing the puzzles (except that KenKen — I will never figure that one out!), and my husband and I always like to see who's smarter each day with the Super Quiz.
It is very much appreciated when you respond so quickly to readers' suggestions for improvement, even for the little things.
— Laurie Green
Reader: Every week in Sound Off people write complaining about the coverage/treatment that Donald Trump receives from The Californian. They don’t understand how anyone could accuse Trump of lying. Since The Californian no longer carries a USA Today section because these readers were offended by real facts, I suggest you print the story from the New York Times listed below. The paper now has spare column space, so print the whole page of Trump’s Lies.
— Karen Goodrich
Price: We no longer have the rights to publish New York Times material but readers can find the list online pretty easily. Google "Trump's lies" and the names of the reporters, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson. It's an impressive list, no matter how you look at it.
Reader: I have learned to read Our View. In the past, I always skipped it. But sometimes it's worth seeing what you guys think. Today's editorial ("Our View: Health care stalemate demands a bipartisan solution," June 28) seemed sensible and all, 'til near the end: "But, as we've already seen twice, bullying behavior by the majority party, whomever it may be at the time, simply doesn't work."
I can see no warrant for using this bastard word; it should be out of everyone's vocabulary. For a journalist, this is simple laziness — unwarranted and inexcusable.
While I'm being irritable, I would like also to remind you that I complained about the layout of the Puzzle Page the same day it was created. But when someone who obviously mattered said something about it, it was corrected the next day.
On the other hand, I think the rearrangement is probably the best possible. The Ken-Ken has only boilerplate stuff on the left margin.
— Larry Dunn
Price: I feel bad about that error, Larry, but apparently not as bad as you do. (Or should it be "badly"?) In any event, I shall attempt to strike the offending word from my repertoire.
Grammerbook.com's discussion of "whomever" nails it: "Many use it indiscriminately to sound cultured, figuring that no one will know any better."
Reader: It's a genuine pleasure to read Garrison Keillor. His quiet calm in the chaos I feel is soothing and restorative.
Steven Mayer's tribute to Sophie ("Grand Old Girl," June 29), though bittersweet, as most obituaries are, also offered a moment of CALM reflection. RIP, Sophie.
And, thank you for relocating the crossword and Cryptoquip away from the irritating tears on the paper's edges. So much better. Good job.
Have a wonderful 4th, even though I know it won't be a quiet one. All fireworks are banned here in Bear Valley Springs. The peace and sanity is wonderful, and amazingly enough, it doesn't feel the least bit unpatriotic. Go figure.
— Pam Wildermuth
Price: I envy your peace. I'll be home trying to keep my dogs calm and looking out for brush fires. But then, as Pete noted, I'm old.
Reader: Well, Mr. Price, you have once again shown your changing attitudes, sorta like I'm experiencing in myself. Over the years your newspaper has moved in the direction some would say is more liberal — downhill to some. But you show both sides and that's being honest — right on. Be open-minded and fair — that's the true America, I think.
— Dave C. Smith
Price: Thanks, Dave, that's an appropriate 4th of July sendoff. Be careful out there.
The Californian welcomes your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or send an email to email@example.com. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won’t be published.