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 may be edited for space and clarity.
Reader: I always wondered what the devil really looks like. Now I know: Jaime Osuna, revealingly photographed by master photographer Felix Adamo ("Murderer mocks victim's family," May 16).
— Mary K. Shell
Reader: Thanks to all who helped with the decision to do the Through Your Lens feature. I really wondered what the paper would be like without Casey Christie. Admittedly you have several other very good photographers, but he was special. Through Your Lens is great.
Pan: I believe the murderer's smirking photo on the front page was just playing into his need for publicity. The story was valid. I just believe the front page was repulsive.
— Bobbie Hulson
Price: We run into this challenge more than occasionally: dispassionately portray news events as they happen or protect readers from images that we believe may be likely to offend. Every case is different, and treatment options vary: front page placement, inside page, large display, small display, online-only display, or no display.
I have no doubt you're correct: That photo made Osuna's day. Possibly his sad, wasted life, too.
News editor Christine Bedell explains more about this particular decision:
"Felix's photo told a compelling story about the evil that exists in our community and to push it inside the paper or not run it at all would be to deny there exists a problem we clearly need to confront. It's why we publish photos of children gassed in Syria, or the human devastation caused by natural disasters like the Erskine Fire.
"For what it's worth, a couple of our editors, including me, argued the dominant news element on the cover of Tuesday's paper should have been the two former Kern County sheriff's deputies pleading guilty to a drug charge in federal court. I thought it was bigger news. But when I saw Tuesday's front page, I knew instantly I had been wrong."
As for our photo staff, with and without the beloved Casey Christie: Each of The Californian's primary photographers has areas of particular strength and an eye for certain types of shots. (Consider Felix Adamo's aforementioned courtroom shot of the smirking, newly convicted murderer.) Casey's specialization happens to be nature photography, although his colleagues have produced excellent work in that area, too. Through Your Lens has helped fill the void created by Casey's retirement and, maybe more important, given readers a way to express their talents as well.
Reader: I just wanted to mention a thing that's been on my mind. That is the 10 Things. Elizabeth Sanchez is doing a great job, but. It's getting a bit stale. There's a desperate need for a little help, I think. Enthusiasm levels need to stay pretty high for a thing like that to fly, and one person can't do that. Maybe it should appear slightly less often.
And, it seems to me, it's fatal for that space to become a space for announcing current events. That means that cynical people who just want to read it for quirky events may run the risk of being uplifted and edified. And that spoils the whole mess!
Speaking of messes, the weather page is acting unruly again! Apparently, you just don't care as much as I do, so I'll need to keep riding you until something happens.
The last time around, you quoted the chief idiot, who said, as well as I understood, that sometimes Death Valley is not as hot at 11 when they checked as at 5, when they ought to have checked. This I considered totally unresponsive. As if we cared about an excuse like that! If he personally had to go out in the hot sun to check the gauges, that would be a much better excuse. But I ask myself, if the high value is being reported to them too soon, why don't they ask for the count a bit later?
And you might check out the listing for Baghdad for the past week or so. There is a suspiciously high count of zeros for the overnight low. Again.
I wonder me if Baghdad has ever had an overnight low of zero.
— Larry Dunn
Price: Funny you should mention those two features.
Ten Things You Need to Know (few of which you really needed to know) made its debut about three years ago, had about a year and a half as one of our most-read, most commented-upon features, and then gradually devolved. Originally it was a newsroom-wide team effort, but for the past few months Elizabeth Sanchez has carried the flag virtually alone. It's clearly time to breathe new life into our Things — and that's precisely what's coming next month. Jennifer Self is leading the reimagining. More details later.
Our weather page is also undergoing some big changes — namely a new weather data provider. We're switching vendors and changing the look slightly. It may not be obvious at first glance, but weather watchers like yourself will notice. Look for that change in coming weeks.
Reader: On the last page of the May 15 Sports section, I read about three Bakersfield College track and field athletes who qualified for the state meet. One athlete, Jacob Bookout, placed first in the high jump during the Southern California finals. It was reported that he cleared 60 feet 6 inches to win. The world record, until broken by Bookout, was 8 feet 1/4 inch. Don't you think this accomplishment is worthy of at least a front-page feature? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
— Brad Roark
Price: Yes, but the Pentagon asked us not to disclose any more information about this superhuman local lad. They have plans for him. Which is too bad, because Cal State Bakersfield, not to mention the Avengers, could use a guy who high jumps 60 feet.
It was a typo, of course.
Reader: "Fake news" is the bane of our existence; it is the weed in the garden of democracy that thrives and chokes out all else because it has been mistaken for an attractive wildflower.
Your Sound Off effort to help readers recognize this menace ("What's the difference between media errors and 'fake news'?," May 13) is valiant, but no less herculean a task than the cleaning of the Augean stables. To paraphrase a popular movie quote, "You're gonna need a bigger shovel."
Readers taken in by "fake news" or propaganda are fooled by the allure of validation, and the irresistible reenforcement of tribal thought. Like that little weed that pops up in the rose garden, it is attractive. It is a pretty shade of green, grows quickly and sprouts a multitude of buds with absolutely no attention. The colorful flowers that erupt from the buds can even rival the roses, but they have an unpleasant odor and can mask burrs. The weed deprives the rose of water and nutrients and reproduces so quickly, and with such tenacity that the previously well-tended garden becomes unrecognizable.
Seems easy to prevent this by simply educating the reader/gardener. Hah! But please keep trying! The weed of "fake news" is a genuine threat, but the ignorant gullibility of the consumer is what can destroy us.
The Fourth Estate is the Roundup that can help save the republic, not only by continuing to publish current events and calling out "fake news," but in persisting to help the reader to recognize the difference.
— Pam Widermuth
Price: You win metaphor of the week, Pam. And of course you're correct. Americans lap up fake news when it fits their preferred narrative. Education is the only way to overcome this catastrophe for democracy, but when informed criticism (the sister of informed voting) is regarded as elitist, we've got problems. Seems to me Pol Pot felt the same way about education.