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.
Reader: I support your decision to cut ties with USA Today, however, you have a long way to go to regain my respect and subscription.
I understand you don’t like President Trump, however, you wear your bias for all to see. You hired a divisive, race baiting columnist in Danny Morrison whose sole responsibility it seems is to insult the demographic that provides financial support to TBC in the form of subscription.
I’ve been a subscriber for approximately 30 years, however, I could no longer support a paper that flaunts their opinions instead of actually performing factual journalism. When reading the paper I found myself looking at your slanted and liberal-leaning headlines that often didn’t fit the body of the column. I found myself only reading the weather, reservoir volume, obits, and BVarsity sports. The remainder of the paper appeared to focus on promoting your liberal agenda.
I admit I miss the paper each morning, however, I don’t miss the aggravation of your opinions.
I believe you’re intuitive enough to figure out my demographic, therefore, have little confidence that my opinion will matter to TBC. I believe you’re so entrenched in smearing the President and conservatives that you will find it difficult to see another side.
— Jon Buck
Price: We’re very much interested in serving the predominant conservative demographic of this region. We’re also interested in serving the liberal and moderate demos. In other words, as many readers as possible in this culturally and ideologically diverse community.
The best way for us to achieve that goal is, one, choose state, national and world stories that best reflect local sensibilities; and, two, publish a broad range of views in our Opinion section that reflect overall balance.
We hope we’ve positioned ourselves on that first count by ending our partnership with USA Today. We were somewhat handcuffed before; now we can choose from a broad range of news providers for our national and world news. We’ll keep our specific readership in mind when we make those selections.
On that second count, our Opinion section has a full stable of conservative columnists to go with our more liberal ones. The problem is, and I’ve expressed this often before, the nation’s leading conservative pundits — George Will, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, David Brooks and Ross Douthat of the New York Times, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and to a lesser extent Charles Krauthammer — are all Trump critics. These are your people, Jon. Except that they believe Trump lacks the necessaries. I don’t recall a president, conservative or liberal, having ever lost the support of the corresponding wing of the nation’s newspaper columnists. Not to this extent. Not even close. And that’s our challenge at The Californian.
Reader: I was pleasantly surprised that after months and months of as many as seven negative articles a day about our president, The Californian had two articles last week that spoke of the president’s efforts and the paper did not, did not, take a pot shot at him. Had to read them a second time! It was like a mirage! It amazes me that The Californian has a political slant that doesn’t follow its readership (customers) more closely.
Bob, we live in a blue collar, conservative community. Why don’t you print more conservative columns? It’s OK to give your customers what they like. Your “conservative opinions” are outnumbered by as much as 4 to 1 with the likes of Leonard Pitts, the Associated Press, Jennifer Rubin, and anything from the USA Today.
So, Bob, how’s the paper’s circulation today compared to 10 years ago? When I was a kid, growing up in Bakersfield, everyone read the paper! The delivered paper was part of our community. It all seems so simple. Fair and equitable, baby, fair and equitable.
— Ed Davis
Price: Where to begin? OK, how about here: You have included Jennifer Rubin among the “liberals.” She writes the Washington Post’s Right Turn conservative blog and would undoubtedly get a chuckle out of your characterization. But she, like the conservative pundits I just mentioned, has written columns critical of Trump. I sought out Rubin specifically to get an additional conservative voice in the Opinion pages. What you really mean, Ed, is that you want to read columnists who are more kind to the president. Look for some in the near future on a test-run basis.
But your 4-to-1 ratio is not remotely close to reality.
As for the newspaper’s circulation, you’re surely aware that a new generation of consumers is getting its news from online sources, and publications in both conservative and liberal cities are feeling the crunch. Many, The Californian among them, are shifting resources toward multimedia — without, we hope, sacrificing anything in our print product.
Reader: I like Gerald Todd’s comment in your June 10 Sound Off: Michelle Malkin or Laura Ingraham would give the conservative view a fighting chance. I have never heard of Debra Saunders or Jennifer Rubin. Ask us readers who we would prefer, when you can, on a columnist. Maybe have a list so we can vote on it? Next time you put your bid out for a contract.
Also, regarding that “TRUMP LIED” headline on your June 9 front page, let’s talk about lying. Dan Rather lied and he was a news man. He didn’t make front page news. James Comey was there saying the president lied, but then the president turned around and said Comey lied. So there is doubt there. So the headline should be published when somebody is caught in a lie, not when it’s a maybe.
— Don Smith
Price: The controversy that followed Dan Rather around involved a disputed 2004 news report about President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard that proved to be substantially false. It most certainly made headlines — front page headlines, for weeks, Don. And it ultimately cost Rather his job.
Are you really saying we should have downplayed or ignored Comey’s declarations under oath, before a national television audience watching on at least five networks, that Trump lied? Are you really saying we should have waited until these “lies” are proven or disproven before we report them? Come on. Lies are rarely proven to be lies. One person’s lie might be another person’s misunderstanding, shade of meaning, hyperbole or simple error. The news was that the nation’s top law enforcement official — by that time fired — was questioning the president’s truthfulness. That's front page material. Should it have been in bold, end-of-the-world capital letters? Now, that’s a fair debate to have. But it was unquestionably a remarkable moment in the nation’s history.
I’ve been looking into Gerald Todd’s suggested columnists, Ingraham and Malkin, both Fox News contributors. I hadn’t been aware that Ingraham even wrote a column — and guess what? She doesn’t. So I don’t know how she could have merited a recommendation. Malkin does write a column but it’s not available through any major syndicators, as far as I can tell. That’s doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t bring her in on a trial basis. One question: If Malkin should ever happen to criticize Trump, will we need to drop her? That seems to be the litmus test for conservative columnists, no matter how infallible their credentials otherwise.
Reader: One of your readers had a wonderful point, which was where were the big headlines about Bill Clinton being a liar? And he was actually a proven liar.
There were no big, fat headlines about “Obama Misrepresents,” or “Obama Lied About His Red Lines.”
— Larry Anderson
Price: Larry, are you saying Clinton got off the hook for “I-Did-Not-Have-Sexual-Relations-With-That-Woman”? He got impeached for it! The whole sordid affair made the front pages of The Californian — for months. Did Obama lie when he said “You can keep your doctor”? Or did he just not know what he was talking about? If his statement was a lie, it was an easily and quickly disproven one. When Trump said, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody ... (even) if you can’t pay for it,” was he lying? Or did he just not know what he was talking about?
When Obama laid down that red line in Syria, was he lying? Or was he bluffing? When Trump alluded in a tweet to a tape recording of his private conversation with Comey, was he lying? Or was he bluffing?
So much is in the ear of the beholder.
Reader: Thanks for dumping USA Today. I’ve been reading The Californian since I was a fourth grader, and I’ve been a subscriber since 1961. I’ve always read most of the newspaper. I always skipped USA Today. I really miss The Galley Sweep. Isn’t there someone local who could bring back a column like Bob Jones wrote? More Eye Street — my favorite section.
There used to be a “Man on the Street” column, too. More local and state news would be great, too.
Thanks again for all of the changes.
— Anita Thomas
Price: Readers love food coverage, whether it’s restaurant news, Pete Tittl’s reviews or recipes of the sort that the late, great Bob Jones used to share. There’s been discussion around here of late about beefing up our coverage of all things food, but it’s way too early to tell you about it. Stay tuned, however.
“Man on the Street”? Always a possibility, especially video.
Reader: No more USA Today hooray!
Let it ever remain that way
No more one fish two fish
Red fish blue fish
Reporting that made me say ish
Like a plate of smelly fish
Rejoicing that you filled my wish
I know the meter of the lines is off. If I continue to like the new changes, I’ll send a congratulatory haiku.
Price: Thank you for the nice hooray
about our dumping USA Today
We’ll sacrifice their color scheme
To better serve our local theme
So goodbye, Today, and amen
Now, please don’t make me rhyme again.
Reader: Some praise is due for the changes you’ve made recently! Taking out the USA Today sections was the best thing you could have done. The paper is now back to being unique and outstanding. Thank you! Thank you too for turning the back of the paper right-side up. It makes the paper easier to read and enjoy.
There is just one more small thing that would make a nice difference. Would you consider rearranging the puzzles page? Those little holes the printing machines make often bite into the Cryptoquip. Those are challenging enough when you have all the letters!
Thanks for letting us print readers know you’re listening and you care about making the paper a pleasure to read and share.
— Anne Stoken
Price: Jim Lawitz, our vice president of content and executive editor, says he will check with our production people to see if we can swap content elsewhere on the page to make this happen for you.
Reader: Looking forward to the new format of the paper. Keep up the good work. I enjoy being able to download and read The Bakersfield Californian as I travel down the Rhine river drinking a cup of coffee and taking in the beautiful scenery.
Price: Are you reading The Californian’s English or German edition?
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