Spencer Lawrence's wife, Alexi, along with his daughters, Birdie and Bjork, offer encouragement as he runs the marathon around the block of the 17th Place Townhomes April 29 in downtown Bakersfield.

Reader: (in a voicemail for reporter Steven Mayer) I want to tell you how much I enjoy your column. I especially enjoyed the one about the man jogging or running around his block, because it brought a lot of memories back to me when I was trying to earn my foot travelers badge in grammar school. And I liked very much the last column you did on World War II.

See, you couldn't get that unless we had a local newspaper. We are so fortunate to have a local newspaper and I don't think people realize how important it is. Anyway, thank you very much.

— Audrain Cooper

Peterson: Thank you, Audrain, for your kind words for both Steven's stories and for the newspaper in general.

I asked Audrain if I could include her message in Sound Off, and she gave me a resounding "absolutely." We had a great chat about newspapers, about the local stories she loves and the features she enjoys, including the daily Today in History column, the comics and some of the puzzles. 

Audrain told me "we are so lucky to have a local newspaper," "I love newspapers" and "I am proud we have a newspaper." She shared several newspapers she's read in the communities in which she has lived, and the ones she reads now.

It's not something to take for granted. The Poynter Institute, a highly regarded school for media professionals, shares this headline: "Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus." Its subhead says: "We're updating this list almost daily." And this headline: "The coronavirus has closed more than 30 local newsrooms across America. And counting."

It's sobering, especially during a time when newspapers provide critical news and information.


Reader: ... Biased AP reporting is a regular feature of the AP. Another example is a headline on Page B1 of the May 11 issue. It says, “Schumer calls on VA to explain use of unproven drug on vets.”

The article contained this statement, “President Donald Trump has heavily promoted the malaria drug, without evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19."

Hydroxychloroquine is not unproven and there is evidence that it’s been effectively used to treat the virus in the U.S., Europe and other countries.

Readers of The Californian deserve more honest reporting and they deserve a better balance on the Opinion page. Most of the opinions, and many of the letters that are printed, say critical things about the president without facts to back the comments.

Two recently printed articles ... were especially bad. Each of them had many “defamatory” and “critical” comments about the president.

The words “defamatory” and “critical” are from standards The Californian has said will be used to determine whether a letter or Community Voices article will be published (see “How to Write Us” on the Opinion page). The articles failed to meet that standard.

I say dump The Associated Press, and give readers a more balanced Opinion page!

BTW, writers employed by The Californian do a much better job than the AP writers when it comes to being fair and balanced!

— Richard C. Nuckles

Peterson: You present several points here, Richard, and even more in your original letter, which I truncated. I'll address just a few, and I'm not going to debate hydroxychloroquine. (I told Richard by phone I wasn't going to hit every point!)

We work very hard to be fair and balanced in our news stories. Opinion pieces, by nature, usually aren't balanced — they present a writer's point of view. Ideally the opinions are formulated based on facts.

I'd like to clarify your comment on our standards regarding letters. Our box on how to write a letter says, in part: "The Californian reserves the right to decline publication if letters are libelous, defamatory or criticize an ideology, party, nationality, etc., in generalized terms."

Nowhere does it say a letter can't be "critical." One factor that tends to trigger a "no-go" on a letter is exactly what the box says — those letters that criticize in generalized, nonspecific terms.


Reader: How I enjoy the balancing act that our newspaper takes with our diverse county of far-right, far-left and moderate readers. Especially significant are those who cancel subscriptions because of perceived bias. But Saturday's Sound Off again left me in the depths of embarrassment and humiliation.

In the midst of a wonderful letter, the writer inserts, "But seriously, do we really need Leonard Pitts' column?" Time and time again, readers express this opinion of Leonard Pitts, a writer who continues to challenge us and the reality of who we are. It reminded me of many of my CSUB students in the past who knew for a fact they weren't prejudiced.

I, for one, continue to look forward to the Pitts column, though I always worry it might be discontinued. Keep up the good work.

— Priscilla Neufeld, Shafter

Peterson: It's a balancing act, for sure! And yes, Priscilla, readers' opinions on columns by Pitts tend to fall at one extreme or the other, and not much in the middle.

I'd like to think that reading columns you don't necessarily agree with at least gets you thinking. Some, I am sure, will say that is a simplistic approach.


Reader: I just have a comment regarding an article that was in the paper this morning (Saturday, May 23), "Future of Communion: Pandemic will alter religious rituals for many US Christians." I kind of wanted to correct something. You say here, talking about the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., "The wafers signifying the body of Christ will be placed in the hands of parishioners wearing face masks and safety glasses."

I just wanted to make a correction. Catholics don't consider that this signifies the body of Christ. We believe that it is the body of Christ. And I realize this is (Associated Press reporter) Mr. (David) Crary's error, not yours. But anyway, just to make it clearer. It does not signify. It is the body of Christ. Thank you. Have a good weekend.

— Donna Kocks

Peterson: Thank you, Donna, for that important correction.


Reader: Just inquiring regarding the status of the Sunday Parade Magazine in The Californian. For the past couple of months, it’s been “hit or miss." Sometimes I receive it, sometimes I don’t. And it isn’t always scanned for the e-edition, either. (As an aside, the Sunday comics are not always scanned for the e-edition, either.)

Is The Californian discontinuing Parade? If not, perhaps it’s a “production problem” and just not being inserted consistently?

I appreciate your help. Thanks!

— Vickie Schallock

Peterson: We have not discontinued Parade. Throughout the year, there are a number of weeks that Parade does not publish an edition, normally tied to holiday weekends. In addition to May 24, the date you inquired, here are the dates we will not have Parade for the balance of the year: July 5, Sept. 6 and Dec. 27.

If you don't receive it on other Sundays, please let customer care know at 392-5777.

I've alerted the right people to make sure it and the comics are scanned for the e-edition. I know there was a technical problem one week.


Reader: I have been a hair stylist for more than 55 years, and I have never been referred to as a hair-cutter (John Cox's article, May 20, "Risky business: Hair-cutters take big chances to work during the quarantine").

I went to beauty college for nine months and then took a State Board test to get my license. While in school, we studied cosmetic chemistry, the circulatory system, and because we learned how to do manicures, facials and neck massages, we had to learn about the bones and muscles in the hands, face and neck.

I have been referred to as a hairdresser, hair stylist, beauty operator, but never a hair-cutter. That is like calling Mr. Cox a pencil pusher. Just saying.

— Donna Ayers

Peterson: No offense intended, Donna, but I hear your point.

John is definitely not a pencil pusher. You're not in favor of hair-cutter. (Beauty operator? I don't think I've heard anyone but my grandma say that, many years ago!)

Is this when I say I appreciate hair stylists, and my hair is in desperate need of attention?

Executive Editor Christine L. Peterson answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; your contact information won’t be published.

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(1) comment


A "stylist" is a "hair cutter" because they cut hair. A person who suffers from the effects of coming back from war don't have PTSD, they have "shell shock." Just stop with the re-defining of our language to make everything sound rosy, when it isn't. Why do we have to "soften" everything so that no one on the planet gets hurt feelings?

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