Reader: This is pretty insignificant compared to all that is going on these days, but I’m just curious about how you determine which features of the paper go together in a section each day. Some days the Sports and puzzle page/comics are together in a section; other days, Sports is with the classifieds or Opinion page.

Sometimes Eye Street is with the classifieds; other times, it is with the Sports or comics or Opinion page. The Faith page might be with any of the above. Granted, the paper is not that big and I can find what I want fairly quickly. But, again, I’m just curious as to how you decide which features go together on a given day. It seems random and inconsistent. Is it the same pattern each week?

— Laurie Green

Peterson: I like to think of the print edition as a puzzle, and there are only so many ways to solve the puzzle and make it work on the printing press. (And yes, different newspapers use different kinds of presses, and each may have different capabilities and requirements.)

Depending on the number and size of ads that are sold, and the news on a given day, we decide how many pages the paper will have that day. Do we have a full-page ad where the advertiser has paid for it to publish in color, as opposed to a black and white page, for example? Do we have an advertiser who has requested to be in a particular section?

We also have to layer in how the press can accommodate the pages. The number of pages in the A and C section have to be the same, as well as B and D, among other limitations.

Then we layer in that, ideally, Nation & World and Sports, and Eye Street on Thursdays and Sundays, get cover spots, at the start of a new section. But we also have to think of sections such as Faith and Opinion and classifieds.

When we had the special 24-page salute to graduates last Saturday, that was done in two 12-page sections and printed earlier in the day, and then inserted into the rest of the paper printed at night. When we do a 12-page section, the press we use requires some pages to be black and white instead of color.

The puzzle is getting more complicated! So that's why it can change day to day — we have to take all the factors into account, and what the press can do, and make the best choice. In an ideal world, it would be exactly the same every day, but it's never that simple.

We print an index on the front page to help readers navigate the day's paper, although likely many readers simply flip through to find their favorites.

Your question is fun — a short break from, as you said, all that is happening in our community and world.

•••

Reader: I was inspired to see 24 pages listing all the graduating high school students in the county in the Saturday, June 6, edition. I personally do not have a senior or know a graduate but reading the lists from each school I can see the promise and the future of our county. Please consider making the list of each school’s graduates a yearly feature even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

— Alex Wiyninger, Bakersfield

Reader: It’s just a list of names!

— Miguel Castellanos

Peterson: Thank you, Alex and Miguel, for writing.

The Californian had two efforts underway to recognize graduates.

The first was the extensive, 24-page list of local high school graduates that published in the June 6 newspaper and e-Edition. We collected those names from the schools and districts.

The second effort is our online-only presentation, where any graduate at any level or his or her parents could choose to enter information online to be displayed at Bakersfield.com. That form asked many questions. You can imagine if we printed all of those it could take more than a hundred pages, given just the names took 24!

In years past, we published a section called College-Bound Seniors. It was only for high school graduates who said they were going to college, and included their name, high school and college they were to attend, with a photo. But it didn't include anyone who was going to the military, to a job or to a volunteer mission.

This year, because of the pandemic and lots of high school students missing out on a traditional graduation (although, yes, now we know some schools are holding modified ceremonies), we decided to collect and publish all the names we could get. We wanted to say: Good job all.

Pros and cons to each approach! But that was our thinking, to give everyone a chance at something nice with ceremonies canceled or modified. And by the way, you can still feature your graduate online free of charge.

•••

Reader: Just a note of appreciation to Ema Sasic for her columns about classic movies. My first movie experience was at age 5 in Vallejo, Calif., Walt Disney's "Bambi" (1942). Over the past 20 years, I have assembled a collection of about 200 of the finest American films of the last 70 years.

Here's a short list of favorites that you might put on your curiosity list. "The Secret of Santa Vittorio" (1969), "The African Queen" (1951), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "The Quiet Man" (1952), "The Searchers" (1956), "Ben-Hur" (1959). Happy reviewing, Ema.

— Jim D Smith

Peterson: Ema sure does love movies! Thanks for your kind comments, Jim, in addition to sharing in a subsequent note that you "enjoy Robert Price's work and the occasional column from one of my all-time faves, Dianne Hardisty. Much to like about TBC."

•••

Reader: Photojournalism is often what carries an entire story. When The Californian is regularly printing photos showing people without masks, masks worn with noses exposed, and people not respecting social distancing, you fail to support the very things that help to control the virus.

Furthermore, you have not written that we recall about the highly contagious nature of the airborne micro drops characteristic of this virus (like the highly contagious measles). You are doing a great job of printing the data on the virus and using charts. Please take care with the powerful role of imagery in communication with respect to the basic behaviors health officials wish to encourage.

— Thank you, The Coopers

Peterson: Thank you for writing. We agree — often photojournalism carries a story! Sometimes the photo is the story.

But what happens when the people we photograph are doing something "wrong" — wearing a mask incorrectly or not at all in a place where they "should," jumping into the Kern River when public safety and search and rescue experts have repeatedly advised against it and told us how many people are swept under the currents and die, or even something like filling up on a bunch of junk food?

We don't stage photos. We don't tell people to fix their face masks or put one on before we will photograph them. We will continue to share information on what experts tell us are best practices. But news photos depict what is, not what "should" be — and not everyone agrees on the "should," depending on the topic.

•••

Reader: (The time) is up on influence reporting. The public has spent the last three months self-educating on COVID-19. Not only is comparing COVID-19 to valley fever "apples to oranges," as you state, in terms of mortality rate, it's like comparing apples to refrigerators in terms of epidemiology.

Both of your sources tried to explain to you how this comparison didn't make sense, it seems, yet you proceeded. A more informative piece may include something like comparing mortality rates of COVID (0.26 percent) to something similar epidimiology wise, say the flu (0.3 percent). The CDC has done that, it's available to view on their website. You seem to try to slip a version of this in there at the end; total deaths per year makes an appearance. But you seem to conclude that losing the death race to the flu 92-51, numbers you quoted, doesn't quite tell the story about COVID that you want told — it's literally your last sentence. If the flu is "a better illness to compare with COVID," as your source is quoted as saying, shouldn't that be the story?

If, as you say yourself, comparing COVID to valley fever or car crashes (that one is just dumb) is not perfect, then why even do it? It completely lacks the one thing COVID reporting needs most — medical legitimacy. If it lacks an educational context, what is left as the motive for the piece? I'll let you answer that if you are inclined, but the public is already well aware of those reasons.

When COVID is behind us, and we are looking back at past mistakes in an attempt to not duplicate them again, journalism will not be one of them. All media, including this piece, will be regarded as a root cause of the problem. The breeze that fanned the flames. Your piece today does the public a disservice.

— Sincerely, Eric Stanley

Peterson: Influence reporting, Eric? I couldn't disagree more. Our story by Stacey Shepard (“COVID-19 deaths in three months equal to valley fever deaths in past five years,” June 11) was simply an attempt to quantify coronavirus deaths compared to other causes of death as people are posing versions of the question "how bad is it?" You can and did ascribe motives to the story. Our only motive was to inform.

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 soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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