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.
Price: Last week I wrote about leaks — classified or privileged information disclosed by individuals not authorized to do so and the news media's duty to protect those confidential sources. The public has a right to know when its government is straying toward corruption and authoritarianism, and agents of conscience — leakers — are the ones often best positioned to do something about it.
What I didn't discuss was our policy here at The Californian relative to leakers. We don't really call them leakers, of course: That word suggests sources whose disclosure of government secrets would likely get them arrested or worse. Out here in the rural provinces, though, the practice of sharing information the boss might not want shared is fairly common — and it sometimes even serves the boss's purpose.
We will quote an anonymous source if, among other things, the person is known to us and we accept their reason for requesting anonymity. Typically we will try to corroborate the information with an official who can go on the record, but sometimes we can't. In those cases we might have to verify the information's accuracy with another anonymous source.
If it's not possible to quote a source by name we'll try to explain why: He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. He requested anonymity because of his alleged fear that the criminal street gang to which he had previously belonged would kill him if members discovered his identity.
In all cases, our first choice is to quote a source by name and position, and the more on-the-record sources on an important single story, the better.
Reader: It is tragic for Bakersfield voters that The Bakersfield Californian provides so much free propaganda to Kevin McCarthy ("McCarthy: Anthem's retreat is sign of law's inevitable collapse," Aug. 5). Vőlkischer Beobachter.
— Wendy Reed, via Twitter
Price: Welcome to the advantages of incumbency. When the House majority leader sits down in your conference room and talks about one of the biggest issues of the day, you write it down and report it. What you don't do is take his word as ironclad fact: You seek out a knowledgeable dissenter.
In this case, we found Steve Schilling, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista, who pulled no punches: “Part of these departures (of health care providers from the ACA) can be laid at the feet of a president and a Congress that have given nothing but disruption and insecurity to an insurance market that relies on stability and calm and predictability.”
Four days later we published Schilling's follow-up op-ed in which he dared McCarthy to retire his "tired list of talking points" and legislate: "... (McCarthy) recently told The Californian he hasn’t given up on a health care bill. Really? What are his ideas? Besides voting for the House’s American Health Care Act — a tax break for the wealthy that would strip millions of their health coverage — it isn’t clear what our congressman has in mind."
So that was hardly free propaganda. In fact, it invited a robust discussion.
I will say, Wendy, that you win this week's hyperbole contest. Vőlkischer Beobachter? That, for the non-Germans among us, is the Folkish Observer, a Nazi newspaper that indeed engaged in propaganda dissemination. Wow.
Reader: Every time I hear these loony tunes rage about California seceding from the USA, I don’t know whether to gag or die laughing. These people live in a fantasy world where everything is as they believe it is. They would run a new country off a cliff in weeks with their “my communism/socialism is better because I’m smarter and better."
Personally, I would like to see Kern County secede from California, but then we would have to build a wall to keep out the liberal haters who refuse to work for what they have.
— Mike Ladd
Price: Based on the timing of your letter, I can only assume you were inspired by our article on the latest person to call for California to secede: Utah Republican Rep. Paul Ray, who said he is tired of the state's "far off to the left-extreme" political positions.
If the Republic of California, with its diverse, vibrant economy, would run itself off the cliff, I wonder how an independent Kern County would manage.
Reader: I know I am preaching to the choir here, but the ignorance wrought by not subscribing to The Californian just astounds me. At least once a week I see an article which is of vital importance to one of my friends and so I give them the heads-up to go to a specific page in the Cal to see it. Repeatedly I hear, "We don't get the paper" and "my parents do but only on Sundays."
Are you kidding me? You can't be an informed citizen by tuning in to the talking heads on cable (who don't give a rip about Bakersfield or the local area), or from Hulu, Netflix or Showtime. Even the e-edition of the Cal doesn't contain everything on a timely basis.
You don't like the editorial stand of The Cal? Turn the page. You aren't interested in local sports? Turn the page. Don't have any use for comics or puzzles? Turn the page, but at least give yourself the option.
To have a successful democracy, people need a stable economy, a literate and educated populace and a common set of core values. We have one, but are really drifting away from the other two.
— Craig Holland
Price: You are correct on all counts, sir.