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SOUND OFF: Answering the real question

Reader: Once again, you have shown your massive talent for avoiding any attempt to answer the real question ("Sound Off: Obituaries capture readers' interest," April 3). The very visible subtext to both letters about the "obituary" of Robert Scot Green involves their feeling that they are being shut out of the conversation by a hopelessly liberal newspaper.

Not one word did you waste on that notion.

I expect you believe that their feeling of exclusion is untrue. I share that opinion, but surely it ought to be answered, or at least acknowledged.

The absurd level of detail about the 250-word limit was thorough, decisive, and totally off point.

— Larry Dunn

Peterson: I will be speaking with an esteemed group of local professionals Wednesday morning, and among the topics they've asked me to address is "How I survive Sound Off." I'm trying to survive it as we speak!

Larry, I am sorry you believe that I avoid any attempt "to answer the real question." For more than a year I have tried rather diligently to seriously consider the questions people pose in Sound Off and give them a useful answer, sometimes with a little humor, always with grace. I will sincerely try again here.

Laying out the parameters for a letter to the editor or Community Voices in our Opinion section isn't avoiding the question. In fact, I laid those out to encourage participation in the Opinion section by people of all beliefs — conservative, liberal, apolitical and everything in between.

I disagree with the notion that people "are being shut out of the conversation by a hopelessly liberal newspaper." Write a letter that meets the parameters. Try it.

No, don't send a 1,500-word opinion piece and expect it to publish. (Word limits!) Don't send a meme from another source. (Possibly entertaining, but I have no rights to use it.) Don't send me a letter that has zero factual basis. (Those are really fun.) Don't submit a research study. (Yep, I get those!) Don't send a letter that has already published in another paper under another author! (Really, really uncool.)

But write something that addresses one point, is based on fact, is the words of the author whose name appears on it and meets the word limit, and it's fine if it expresses a liberal or conservative opinion, or no political opinion at all. They're all welcome.


Reader: I just read Christine Peterson’s response to that bogus obituary. Christine, give me a break. That was not an obituary. Take 10 minutes and read it! It was nothing but political slop and it’s appalling that your team left it in. BTW, they did it last year as well.

Take responsibility and make obituaries about that and not workarounds that you can blame the advertising team on.

— John Bilotta

Peterson: John, I read the item in question — several times. While it is certainly not how I would personally write an obituary for my loved one, the submitter chose this route and paid for an obituary. No blame on the advertising team; they handle obituaries, I handle news.

I'm declaring myself finished with the topics of letters and paid obituaries for now. Let's move on to something else. Remember, I need to survive Sound Off, at least until my Wednesday speaking engagement.


— Yorkies

Peterson: Thanks for the kind comment on Steven Mayer's story. Steven has a great talent for finding wonderful people and history stories, and using the perfect words to tell the tale.

Executive Editor Christine Peterson answers your questions and takes your complaints about The Californian’s 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 Please include your name and phone number.

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