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The family of Wesley James Hahn, led by his mother, Jackie Hahn, release balloons in memory of Wesley into the overcast sky from the Panorama Bluffs Wednesday. Wesley passed away Jan. 11, 2011, and each year on Jan. 11 Jackie Hahn has released balloons in his memory. This series of photos drew comments from readers.

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

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 have long questioned TBC’s rationale for selecting front-page stories. This past week you had two front-page stories that clearly pushed an agenda relevant to only a few of your readers and the populace of Kern County. I am referring to the story regarding the transgender teen who died by suicide.

This was certainly a tragedy and was worthy of coverage but a front-page story, you think? Why was this suicide more tragic than that of any other teen? I found it repulsive that the LGBT community used this death to promote their own agenda. I can well imagine the mental anguish and identity crisis experienced by a person whose biological gender and hard wiring are at odds. They deserve our compassion and understanding as this is certainly not something they have chosen. But being gay is obviously in a different category as it is something they are proud of, as in gay pride parades.

Then you followed up with a front-page story in Sunday’s paper (“Can Bakersfield become ‘safer and softer?’,” Jan. 8) linking this teen’s suicide with Bakersfield being a less than totally accepting community thereby inferring that the attitudes of the community toward homosexuality somehow contributed to this tragic death. Is it possible that the LGBT community didn’t provide the emotional support they should have for one they claim to be their own?

— Miguel Nidever

Price: Every suicide is a tragedy on some level, and teen suicide is especially alarming and painful. This suicide is no more tragic than that of any other teen, but Jai Bornstein’s death was more newsworthy than most for a few reasons.

One, authorities had been conducting a very public search for the missing transgender teen. Having reported that, we were obligated to report the outcome of the search.

Two, and more to the point, we’re in the midst of a national discussion of transgender rights.

Over the past three or four years in particular, we’ve discussed its physiology, psychology, morality and legality. Like it or not — and many clearly do not — it’s right in front of us, perhaps more so than we know. For every Jai Bornstein, I suspect there are 100 more people trying to understand who they are.

Three, Bakersfield has been the dateline for several LGBTQ-related issues or incidents that attracted national attention, as reporter Steven Mayer pointed out, creating, at least for some, the perception that this city, overall, is not particularly empathetic on these matters.

Until we published Steve’s story we had looked at these issues mostly on a case-specific level. It made sense to view them from a broader perspective. The pitfall of taking the macro view, however, is that generalizations will be made, and some may feel they’ve been pigeonholed in ways that aren’t accurate or deserved. Three or four people expressed that to me about Steve’s story this week.

The thing is, my takeaway from Steve’s story was that attitudes have changed over the years and, though they don’t believe we’re there yet, members of the local LGBT community feel more safe and comfortable than ever before. That strikes me as a positive generalization.

Reader: Wanted to let you know how much I enjoy Sound Off and your witty responses. You should be a politician, because you can go on and on without really addressing the writer’s overall comments.

You’ve been taking a lot of heat from us crazy conservatives about the supposed left-leaning slant of your paper.

You recently advised you are adding two new conservative columns after losing one. Net gain — one.

I also read one of your replies stating there are more liberal columns because liberals publish more articles than conservatives (huh?).

Don’t you, as the editor, decide what to publish? I enjoyed your even slant in today’s (Jan. 8) Sunday paper. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg, and the column about Jeff Sessions’ record — from writers (who originally submitted their column) to the Washington Post.

I also have to commend you on your use of USA Today because it’s only a “little” left of center.

I was just wondering if you get many letters from your liberal readers that you publish too many conservative columns. I don’t recall seeing any.

You could put these contentions aside by advising readers how many liberal slanted columns have been published vs conservative slanted columns published over the past year. I think that information could put this subject to rest.

— Van Fairbanks

Price: Debra Saunders may no longer be the most conservative woman in San Francisco but she hasn’t stopped writing her strongly conservative column from her new perch in Washington, where’s she now stationed for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. So our recent addition of George Will and Charles Krauthammer is a net gain of two conservative columnists, not one.

I didn’t say liberals publish more articles than conservatives, I said Dana Milbank, a liberal, and Michael Gerson, a conservative, produce columns more frequently than Saunders and Rich Lowry, both conservatives, so they tend to be published more often.

(It’s worth noting that, because Milbank writes so often, usually four times a week, his columns tend to be more current and topical than others’. He filed a column from a recent impromptu Kevin McCarthy news conference on Capitol Hill so quickly, I wonder if McCarthy made it back to his office before Milbank’s column hit the web.)

Milbank’s prolific level of production is one reason we added the two new conservative columnists. Not only does that add new voices from the right, it crowds out Milbank a little.

Do I get letters from readers who complain about our conservative columnists? Yep, all the time.

I don’t know if we’ve published more liberal columnists than conservative columnists over the past year, but I’m certain we’ve published more columnists critical of Donald Trump than supportive. It’s been that kind of year, and Trump is that kind of public figure. As Gerson, a card-carrying conservative who happens to believe Trump is unqualified to be president, wrote in that Jan. 8 column you reference, “For some right-wing populists, anyone who opposes Trump is the enemy.”

There. I believe I’ve addressed your comments so specifically I’ve just disqualified myself from public office. Like that was going to happen.

Reader: Too bad that George Will’s new column was such a hateful screed about Barack Obama (“Obama was indeed transformational, unfortunately,” Jan. 7). If this is what the “dean of conservative writers” is offering, he’s lost one reader already.

— Cynthia Simmons

Price: Cynthia, Van. Van, Cynthia.

Reader: A couple of things from your favorite reader.

1. Since Jeff Tkac was my friend, client and independently a friend of my kids, I am sensitive about the reporting on his tragic death. That said, I think you’ve handled it well considering his recent election to City Council and other accomplishments. My daughter, Kelly Garcia, and Msgr. Craig Harrison handled the funeral arrangements.

I’m grateful suicide is better understood today — especially that a person with the solid values Jeff had could yield to whatever inner torture.

The transgender girl is another story that IMO results largely from the recent political confusion over sexuality and the “thorns” we all have to deal with. Who can predict those outcomes?

2. Your selection of George Will and Charles Krauthammer as the conservative view, well, gee. You couldn’t have picked two more anti-Trump conservatives.

I’m tired of Will. I like Krauthammer, but neither offer worthwhile commentary on the issues that Trump will demonstrate his skills on. Just more progressive whining while waving the flag.

Belated Happy New Year.

— Jerry Todd

Price: I keep hearing people ask Trump doubters to give the man a chance. I say give these new columnists a chance.

My condolences on the loss of your friend — many people’s friend — Jeff Tkac.

Reader: I’m looking forward to reading your two new conservative commentators, especially Charles Krauthammer.

— David Collins

Reader: As a naturalized American of European descent, and as a Latina, I know what Danny Morrison was referring to in his Jan. 5 column,” Do the ‘write’ thing and erase ‘eracism’”: The subtle comments (or not so subtle) about how things do not matter (until they do, that is).

Yes, it is true there is racism, xenophobia, discrimination and hatred in this beautiful country of ours. I just choose to not pay attention to it, until I have to. I am probably old enough now to be Danny’s mother, but would like to share with him that he probably has many more admirers than he knows.

Beautiful people, like Danny and Steven Mayer, among so many others, are one of the main reasons my husband and I, in the age of digital media, continue to subscribe to The Bakersfield Californian.

— Deborah Martel Rogers

Reader: Henry Barrios did a beautiful job in your Jan. 12 edition capturing a balloon release in memory of a loved one. I think this is a touching remembrance, but my concern is for our wildlife once those balloons deflate.

Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them. In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet, arms or wings. Maybe a butterfly release or blowing bubbles could take the place of the balloon ritual, keeping our wildlife safe and taking better care of the environment.

— Laura Sabedra

Price: If Henry spots any butterfly-release tributes, I’m betting he’ll bring back another batch of beautiful photos.

Reader: I’ve always enjoyed Casey Christie’s photos, so I was wondering how his replacement would do. Based on these rainy day pictures (“Wet & wild,” Jan. 13), I think Henry Barrios is a worthy successor. Nice work.

— gketchum

Price: I agree Henry’s photos capturing Thursday’s storm were great, but I don’t think the “replacement” designation quite fits. Henry has been at The Californian for more than two decades.

Reader: When I was a child the Sunday edition was wrapped in the comics. It was colorful and exciting to find on the newsstand. Today the comics are as hidden as they can possibly be. It is obvious that some thought is given to the endeavor.

The Sunday E-Edition is even worse. There is no guide, or mention, to help the reader find the comics. I just turned one page at a time until I found them.

Is there a chance in hell you might make them easier to find?

— Keith Stephens

Price: I don’t see the comics moving, Keith. From a newsman’s perspective, I just like the idea of having the product of our primary mission, delivering the news, right out in front. From a businessman’s perspective, I think wrapping the entire paper in the comics wouldn’t do much for rack or retail sales.

And it seems to me the comics stand out pretty well already, printed as they are on oversized, thicker-than-standard paper.

As for indexing the comics on the front page of our E-Edition, that may be a possibility at some point.

But I like the fact that you still appreciate a little whimsy amid all the drama in today’s world.

Robert Price and The Californian welcome your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voice-mail message or send an email to soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won’t be published.

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