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: Ralph Bailey is a gentler radio talk show host than most in that he sometimes sees both sides of the political equation. He has expressed support for Donald Trump, but Bailey did admonish the president on May 20 to stop with the pettiness and take care of important business; however, he disappointed me by bad-mouthing our local newspaper. He said, in effect, it’s little wonder that Kevin McCarthy would not give The Californian an interview because the editors/writers embarrass him.
McCarthy spoke lengthily on both the Richard Beene and Ralph Bailey shows, attempting to explain his so-called joke of a year ago about Putin paying Trump a salary. (I find it interesting that he would devote that time to talk shows yet be too busy to hold meaningful town hall meetings with his constituents.)
On May 18, The Californian reprinted an article from the Washington Post (“McCarthy to GOP House colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays Trump’”) detailing McCarthy’s “joke.” Mr. Bailey, have you read it? Notice how Kevin ends his remark with these words: “Swear to God.” The paper is not inflicting damage on Kevin. He does it all by himself.
We have descended a rung or two in the evolutionary process of becoming civilized through the present administration’s lack of concern for the environment, universal health care, climate change, race relations, Russian hacking. The Californian, with integrity and fair-mindedness, informs us of such unpleasant truths.
— Ann Silver
Senior Editor Robert Price: McCarthy has expressed some of the same concerns about our coverage to members of our editorial board. I’m sorry if he feels The Californian has at times embarrassed him, but I would point out two things.
(1) McCarthy has more than once uttered things he’d probably like to take back, or at least re-state.
Such as his truthful gaffe about the political nature of the Benghazi hearings: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
Such as his televised about-face within the span of an hour on the question of whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from the FBI investigation into alleged communications between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Such as his claim just this month that “we’re not taking a benefit away. Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away.” Politifact rated that statement “false” and the Congressional Budget Office underscored that finding, declaring this week that the House’s new health care bill will leave 23 million more people uninsured in 2026 than if the ACA were to stay in place. We can attribute most of that to the bill’s $834 billion in Medicaid cuts.
And now comes the comment about Trump and Putin.
All of these statements were first reported elsewhere. Should we here at the congressman’s hometown paper have ignored them? Should we be trying to protect “our guy” from his erroneous public pronouncements and self-inflicted embarrassments? Even if we were inclined to do that — an absurd premise, I know — his constituents would be able to find the information elsewhere. And then they’d simply keep looking elsewhere.
Which brings me to (2). McCarthy has long benefited from great local press. He’s universally liked, or close to it, and his phenomenally rapid ascension, first in the California Assembly and then in Congress, has been a source of local pride. But with all that glory comes responsibility, scrutiny and vulnerability to criticism. To be able to withstand all of that, a politician must develop thick skin and a willingness to honestly engage. Those are areas our congressman might want to address.
Reader: Stacking the deck, filtering information and omitting viewpoints from the other side not only becomes propaganda but also fake news.
Currently, the Democratic leaders seem to be Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer and Maxine Waters. Recently they graded President Trump’s first 100 days. They all gave him between a D and F in every category.
Doug Schoen, a lifelong Democrat who worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, graded Trump’s performance quite differently (“What Democrats won’t admit about Trump’s first 100 days,” April 29): Foreign policy: A+, domestic policy: C , Supreme Court: B+, Regulations-Trade-Jobs: A-, Immigration: B+. Mr. Schoen also states that Trump is enjoying an 84 percent approval rating among Republicans and 98 percent of the people who voted for him say they’re happy with their decision. This information, however, would not fit the liberal media’s narrative and therefore is ignored.
Before the election I did an in-depth study of this newspaper to try and prove my suspicion that The Bakersfield Californian was extremely politically bias(ed). Every piece of political information was tracked each day for two months (letters, articles, cartoons, 10 Things, etc.). The overall result was 72.5 percent left leaning and just 27.5 percent right. Front-page political coverage was even more skewed to the left (12 to 2 ratio).
By not accurately reporting both sides and using the left-leaning USA Today to support The Californian’s liberal agenda, as well as continually trashing Trump via carefully chosen liberal writers and the use of “Never Trumpers” (Rich Lowry, Charles Krauthammer, George Will), together with the “destroy Trump” Washington Post, a cleverly crafted political propaganda machine is unfortunately what subscribers receive.
— Randy Grigg
Price: As I’ve expressed before, an article that makes Trump look bad isn’t necessarily a “left-leaning” article. We’ve got a president who stirs things up with stunning regularity, and the media is obligated to report it. That’s not to say the mainstream press doesn’t lean left; it does. But the numbers in your “in-depth study” need to take into account Trump’s impulsive, pugnacious, fact-challenged ways.
You lump letters, columns and cartoons in with news articles and call our cumulative grade evidence of bias. Know this: We print the letters we receive. I have never rejected a reader’s coherent letter solely on the basis of ideology. As for syndicated columns, shouldn’t it say something that the nation’s most prominent, reliably conservative columnists have been critical of this president? And, yes, that’s a problem on our side of the page, too: As my colleagues in the Association of Opinion Journalists have often noted, it’s extremely difficult to find informed pro-Trump writers for the editorial page. The Washington Post said as much in December: “’Wanted: Columnists to say nice things about Donald Trump. Must be able to make cogent arguments in favor of the president-elect’s policies, appointees and statements. Experience preferred but not required.’ It’s not an actual want ad, but it might as well be one.”
The same goes for cartoons: One of our services, Cagle Cartoons, recognized the problem and created a “Trump friendly cartoons” section. The section has been increasingly populated with cartoons that simply address topics unrelated to executive branch affairs. Maybe Cagle should change it to the “Trump-free cartoons” section.
As for all this nonsense about Trump’s first 100 days, I’m not shocked, either, that Pelosi, Schumer and Waters would give the president poor grades. But Doug Schoen? The Fox News analyst and co-author of a book on the Tea Party movement has been called the quintessential “Fox News Democrat.” I’m not shocked he gave Trump honor-role grades.
Reader: The hatred and bias towards Donald Trump by the liberal press seems to know no bounds. The firing of James Comey will have no bearing on the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.
Where was the press outcry when Obama gave military info to the Russians which was used against our allies? Source NBC news. In this case if information was shared it was on ISIS, a common enemy. Has anyone noticed that jobs were up 2 percent above projections and unemployment down?
— Steven Ledbetter
Price: Let’s let that first one sink in for a minute: “The firing of James Comey will have no bearing on the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.” Perhaps you missed it, but Comey’s firing led directly to the Justice Department’s decision to name former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the department’s investigation into Russian meddling. Comey’s firing also seems to have revved up the pace of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of the Russian affair. Comey’s firing will have huge bearing.
As for Obama giving “military info to the Russians,” the U.S. and Russia did indeed exchange information while they were simultaneously targeting ISIS with airstrikes in Syria. Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, had already shared information with the U.S. and the Russian military was coordinating with French naval forces in the Mediterranean.
Pentagon officials said the advance warning provided by Russia of its long-range bombing strike on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa helped to ensure no American planes were put at risk.
“We are not coordinating or cooperating with the Russians in terms of targets but we are taking these important steps to make sure our pilots, and the Russian crews for that matter, do not come into conflict with one another,” Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said at the time.
All of this was covered quite extensively by the U.S. and foreign press.
If cooperation with the Russians later created problems, though, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Comparing the Obama administration’s carefully considered, Pentagon-approved cooperation with Trump’s apparently spontaneous Oval Office disclosure to Russian diplomats of intelligence obtained from Israel is a reach of the highest order.
Reader: We moved from Bakersfield to Richmond, Va., in May 2015. We love keeping up with Bakersfield news every day via The Californian’s e-edition, and especially enjoy reading “10 Things You Need To Know.”
The following sentences in today’s paper weren’t entirely clear to me:
“The Bakersfield National Cemetery Support Committee is hosting a ceremony to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes who were killed in service to our country on Saturday, May 27.” (Are we only honoring people who were killed on Saturday, May 27?)
“Starbucks will add ice to your drink made from coffee.” (Is Starbucks now adding ice to coffee drinks? Wow!)
Not a big deal, just tickled my grammar-nerd funny bone!
— Candace Killip
Price: You nailed us. That’s a common sentence-construction problem. It can make for some funny mental images, but it’s always funnier when someone else does it.
Reader: I want to thank Herb Benham for the lovely words he wrote about Darrell Cates (“Performer/educator lived in perfect pitch,” May 7). Mr. Cates took over as North High’s choir director in about 1966.
I can still hear him telling us to push on the edge of our chairs, and hold our head as if pulled by an invisible string from above. He always wanted us to achieve “overtones,” which is what produces the beautiful resonance heard in great singers. I had so much admiration and appreciation for him, truly one of my favorite teachers. A compliment from him had me smiling for days. Also, I was one of many who saw him portray Jesus Christ, in King of Glory. He was wonderful.
Thank you to Jennifer Self for her two-page story regarding Charles Pierce (“Charles Pierce, the pioneer Bakersfield forgot, gets his due,” May 9). I feel vindicated. A few years back when everyone was hell bent on renaming Meadows Field Airport (named after pioneer aviator and superintendent of all Kern County airports, Cecil C. Meadows) for Merle Haggard, I wrote to the opinion section stating that while it is a great honor to have something named after someone more currently “known,” it should never be at the expense of someone who is the original namesake. I specifically mentioned that I thought renaming Pierce Road to Buck Owens Boulevard, while an honor for Buck, was grossly unfair to the Pierce family.
I also want to thank Danny Morrison for sharing the poem he wrote for his mother (“I haven’t forgotten Momma’s tenacity and sacrifice,” May 9). It was touching and beautiful, and I shed many tears reading it.
— Linda (Meadows) Polston
Reader: Reading the Garrison Keillor piece in your May 14 edition (“The fraternal order of executivity”) was like reading a mini novel. Thank you (whoever or whomever) for selecting and sharing.
— Pamela Wildermuth
Price: There’s a lot of competition for the limited space in our Opinion pages among the writers who fill our stable of syndicated columnists, so you might not see a lot of Keillor, former host of the now-defunct Prairie Home Companion radio program. But we’ll work him in when we can.
Reader: In your May 19 paper, the page 28 depiction of the three participant NAFTA nations’ flags as interlocked gears is interesting in that this configuration cannot work. Is this editorial work?
— Dick Jennings
Price: It’s a visual metaphor, Dick. A metaphor. Blame the people at USA Today.