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: It's interesting to see the letters stating that The Californian is trending to the liberal left. It is strange that they are just noticing this. I have been a subscriber for more than 50 years and have watched your trend to the left over this time. It is not surprising since ALL of the mainstream media, both television and print media, are moving to the left. You can try to counter this fact all day but all anyone has to do is read the paper for a few days.
I continue the paper mostly for the local news, sports and the comics. I usually skip over the editorials since I know from the source or the writer's name I will read a diatribe of leftist propaganda. I do enjoy the work of Lois Henry.
— Alvin Tullis
Price: Well, the fact is, Alvin, one cannot possibly judge whether The Californian or mainstream media in general have moved to the left over the past 50 years, or any defined period you might choose, by reading the paper for a few days. You'd have to read it over the course of the period you say the shift has occurred.
And you'd have to understand what the terms "left" and "right" have really meant over that period, because they've evolved.
I don't believe the media have become more liberal. I believe the media have, like the general population, become more polarized. The last 50 years have seen the rise of Fox News, the Washington Times, World Net Daily, Breitbart News, and talk radio — unapologetically conservative media that didn't previously exist to this extent. And we've seen a rise in liberal media as well — MSNBC and Daily Kos, to name two.
I'm going to take a wild guess and assume Donald Trump's difficulty with the mainstream media (and they with him) in part led you to this conclusion. That is to say, the liberal press is actively biased against conservative Trump, right? Seems simple. Self evident.
Except it's not. We've never seen anything like the Trump phenomenon. The remarkable thing, for purposes of this discussion, is that, almost without exception, the editorial boards of conservative and liberal media alike came out forcefully against the Republican nominee. The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Business Investors Daily — all conservative stalwarts since their inception — opposed his candidacy. We expected the New York Times to endorse Hillary Clinton, but not the Arizona Republic or the Dallas Morning News, which hadn't endorsed a Democrat in a century or more.
This presented a unique challenge for newspapers across the country, as I've explained many times in this column over the past year, and as Paul Farhi described in a Dec. 9 article for the Washington Post:
"Major newspapers, from The Washington Post to the New York Times, have struggled to find and publish pro-Trump columns for months," he wrote. "So have regional ones, such as the Des Moines Register and the Arizona Republic, which has a long history of supporting Republican candidates.
"The newspapers have plenty of conservative writers, but that’s where the problem begins. Trump, who has defied traditional left-right categories, has offered something for both liberals and conservatives to dislike. The latter never believed that Trump was a true conservative; the former were revolted by his rhetoric from the start. Hence, he has had few friends on the nation’s op-ed pages."
Farhi describes how many newspapers went to great lengths to find writers who could intelligently bolster Trump's case. I can identify; we did too.
But beyond that, have definitions of liberal and conservative changed over time? Keith Poole of the University of Georgia, a go-to expert in the study of idealogical shifts, posited in a 2012 interview with NPR that Republicans are the farthest right they've been in 100 years.
"Ronald Reagan was so successful because he made all these deals with these huge blocks of moderate legislators," Poole said. "That's why he had overwhelming majorities (on so many major initiatives). ... All that stuff passed with very large majorities. You cannot imagine anything like that happening now."
Now we can't even get a budget passed without tottering on the edge of a government shutdown.
"In the last few Congresses, the overlap has vanished; that is, the most liberal Republican is to the right of the most conservative Democrat," Poole and colleague Christopher Hare concluded, based on their close analysis of roll call votes.
Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's political positions, for example, changed little over the course of his 35 years in the U.S. Senate, and yet, according to the political-science blog The Monkey Cage: "In his first term in Congress, Sen. Lugar was the 23rd most moderate Republican in the Senate (of the 38) ... (but by 2011) he was the fifth most moderate (of the 42)." It eventually cost him: Lugar decisively lost his 2012 GOP primary race. Lugar hadn't shifted; Republican voters had.
Though the shift hasn't been as extreme, Poole and Hare said, Democrats have moved to the left, too, contributing to the national conversation's ever widening gap.
So, here's my theory: Positions taken by mainstream media columnists and editorial boards that might have occupied what was once considered the political center now seem downright left-leaning to many conservative readers because, as a group, they've changed.
Throw in a president-elect who is disliked and feared by both newsmakers from his own party and many of media's leading conservative voices and it may indeed seem like media are trending left.
Reader: I have to tell you how very much I enjoy your column. It’s one of the things that gets me out of bed every Saturday (plus a cup of coffee).
However do you keep your head from exploding? I’m referring to the letter writer who seems to believe that because Democrats mostly live in high density areas, their votes shouldn’t count. This idiotic line of reasoning was affirmed by a Public Policy Polling survey taken after the election showing that 29 percent of Trump supporters believe that California votes should not be included and 18 percent aren't sure.
I believe that each vote should count the same, but the Electoral College favors the less densely populated states. Since that is the current law of the land, we now have a president-elect who did not win the popular vote by a long shot. The president elect did NOT win by a landslide and he does NOT have a mandate. But, as you said, anything said loud enough and often enough becomes fact to those who want to believe.
Thank you for trying to inform the misinformed. Keep up the good work even though it appears to be an uphill and unwinnable battle.
— Sharon Mills
Reader: OK, I did buy into the fake news on the number of counties that Trump won versus the number Clinton won, my bad, but by your numbers, 2,623 to 487, that is still a better than 5 to 1 win. With more than 3.5 million square miles in the U.S. do you believe that New York City, covering just 304 square miles made up five boroughs (very small counties) with a combined population of more than 8.5 million, should be able to put whomever they want in the White House? Add the Left Coast of California to the mix and we would never have anyone but a Democrat in the White House. Long live the Electoral College.
— David R. "Not the Quarterback" Carr
Price: You're right, David. Generally speaking, Clinton won in places where lots of voters live and Trump won in places where fewer voters live. Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes and Trump won the land-area vote by perhaps 2.8 million square miles. Neither of those tallies count.
Reader: Bob, first of all Merry Christmas and God's blessings, friend. Secondly, we know availability is hard these days with the sky falling and Chicken Little on the run, but please see if somebody out there is creating political cartoons from the right as well as the left, would you? The slew from the one side is tedious. Don't make us count, we're too tired.
From the guy who doesn't trust any government.
— Hugh Smith
Price: It's true, pro-Trump cartoons are hard to find, for the same reasons pro-Trump columns and editorials are hard to find. We subscribed to Michael Ramirez, one of the most conservative cartoonists out there, specifically to get that perspective in the paper. But when you have a contentious candidate/president-elect making news of a highly controversial nature every day, the cartoons are going to be predominately critical.
Merry Christmas to you, too, Hugh.
Reader: The final stats of your coverage of the presidential election came out to 72.5 percent Against Trump/Pro Hillary to 27.5 percent Against Hillary/Pro Trump. Each article, 10 Things item, letter and cartoon was read and categorized. You published 12 front page articles Against Trump and just two Against Hillary. I gave three times the value to a front page story, which should be very fair. There were a total of 222 entries from Sept. 8 through Nov. 8. I welcome you to dispute any of my classifications.
I did this because I "smelled a rat" with your coverage of the last election cycle, Obama vs Romney. I figured the only way to alert other subscribers of your suspected bias was to track your performance and present the true facts.
It was very apparent that your "go to" source of propaganda is the Washington Post (a similar publication to the fake news from the New York Times). Both column writers you admired and used on a regular basis, Michael Gerson and Dana Milbank, are consistent hard core critics of Trump; Milbank even asked the DNC to get as much dirt against Trump as possible so he could try and smear him. You tried to counter your anti-Trump campaign with random articles by Rich Lowry (editor of the National Review), knowing that he was criticized by Trump like other establishment Republicans George Will, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Lindsay Graham. In addition you tag-teamed with left leaning USA Today, which endorsed Hillary Clinton.
Now with the election over, why are you continuing to stack your news pieces to try and sabotage the next president? It seems you and other left wing cry babies don't understand it's time to take your lumps and move on with a more positive agenda. Republicans had to accept the fact a community organizer was elected president for two long terms.
Only 6 percent of the population trusts the media because of their biased propaganda. You and your Hollywood partners failed miserably at trying to convince hard working Americans that corrupt Hillary Clinton was a better choice. Merry Christmas.
— Randy Grigg
Price: What constitutes an "Against Trump" article and an "Against Hillary" article? If a presidential candidate makes a statement or becomes the subject of a news event that reflects on him at all negatively, intentionally or otherwise, does publishing an article about it reflect media bias? If one candidate creates negative news, do we consider the fact that we've already had more negative items on that candidate than the other and therefore withhold the new information? ("Hey, we can't publish a story about this latest offensive statement by Candidate X because our anti-Candidate X allotment for the month is used up.") Should media be bound by a negative-news pitch count?
I've responded to your criticism on this subject before, Randy, and nothing has changed. Donald Trump ran a campaign like nothing we've ever seen. He made news daily — sometimes several times a day — by making purposely provocative statements.
The media can't and didn't ignore it, and Trump may have ultimately benefited.
By the way, I'm eager to know which specific stories by the Times and Post qualified as full-on fake news. And I should note that USA Today did not endorse Clinton. Like the Wall Street Journal, the most-read, most-respected conservative newspaper in the U.S., it merely beseeched voters to reject Trump.
Reader: After reading the Thanksgiving Day edition of The Bakersfield Californian, I thought about making a change in my environment by moving back to my birth state, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I lived for 20 years and where the major problems were the "nine months of winter and three months of poor sledding."
What a newspaper that day: A veteran who depended on his lawnmower to stay financially alive found that his lawnmower had been stolen. Brad Pitt's movie "Allied" is described as "sluggish," a bomb was placed in a padded envelope and a man was hospitalized. Politics and race can bring about uncomfortable dinner conversations. I could go on, but enough is enough.
I commend the paper for publishing the article "Many happy thanks for giving us inspiration" by Danny Morrison!
— Ron Bennett
Price: The news doesn't stop, even on holidays. I'm guessing the newspapers back in Michigan had much of the same. We had plenty of good news, too, though, that day. The story about the veteran whose lawnmower was stolen was one of them: People read his wife's letter to the editor and stepped up to help. The glass is half full.
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 email@example.com. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won’t be published.