And lots of readers weighed in with thoughtful arguments on both sides. They pointed out the positives and negatives of allowing mostly anonymous comments on the website. Some suggested comments would be OK if people were required to provide their true name. Others called for more rigorous moderation and deletion of inappropriate or off-topic comments.
And many pointed out what I see day in and day out: Comments left on Bakersfield.com stories have largely devolved into rants, attacks, ramblings about topics having nothing to do with the story at hand and copy-and-pasted paragraphs.
So we're at decision time. Story commenting online at Bakersfield.com will end Sept. 30.
I can already hear the criticism. But it's our First Amendment right to comment online! But you have to allow it! But we have nowhere else to make our views known!
No, no and no.
The Californian continues its long tradition of welcoming and encouraging thoughtful comments and a civil debate on issues. Here's how to do that:
• Comment on stories that we have posted to our Facebook page. The stories posted there generally have more civil, on-topic comments, likely because they have a name attached.
• Pen a letter to the editor or a Community Voice. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online submission form found at Bakersfield.com. Writers who want to see their work considered for publication must include their name, address and phone number. Names and city or town of residence are published.
Letters should be no more than 250 words. Community Voices should be no more than 650 words and delve into a significant societal issue or current event.
• Send a letter to Sound Off at email@example.com. These letters should focus more on complimenting, criticizing or questioning aspects of news coverage, or simply asking how or why we do what we do. The preference here is always a signed letter. I will consider publishing and answering an unsigned letter in Sound Off if answering the question adds to readers' understanding of how we do the work of journalism.
• And last, but certainly not least, contact the reporter who wrote a story directly via email, which is published with their byline, or by phone. If you have a question about a story, ask.
Reader: How cool! At first I thought it was a mistake or that the person who passed away had a favorite dog, but when I read it, I was just delighted. What a lovely remembrance — I wish I had known Desi-dog. Usually I scan every obituary for keywords, but this one? I read it twice because it was well-written and thoughtful, and after reading it, I felt like I knew her.
Undoubtedly, you will get criticism, but new things take time to think about and through before changing, and much longer for others to get used to and accept. I think you have discovered another niche — humans are not the only ones who are loved.
— Matthew Jett
Peterson: The obituary for Desirée LaBelle Keogh, also referred to as Desi in the text, was very sweet and definitely showed love for this pup.
While we do not receive many obituaries for beloved pets, we do welcome them.
Reader: Just read the article ("Local events commemorate unforgettable attacks on 9/11," Sept. 12) on the 9/11 ceremony in Bakersfield. Great article.
My concern lies in the pictures printed in the paper. Although the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery required masks for their event, and the picture from there showed a masked person, all the pictures from the city’s ceremony at the southwest fire and police stations didn’t show any masks. None of the officers, firemen, speakers, crowd — none, were wearing masks.
It’s disheartening that our city leaders and departments aren’t being an example of what we should be doing when at public events — wear a mask. If our officials don’t support mask wearing, how do they expect the community to take it seriously?
— Chris Lowe
Peterson: I can't speak for the people who were present at the event. Perhaps they believed they were employing good social distancing, as several of the photos show people were pretty well spaced apart, much more than at a usual memorial gathering. I'll also note at least one of our photos showed Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh wearing a mask.
The event was livestreamed on the Bakersfield Fire Department's Facebook page, and the public was encouraged to watch it there to minimize crowds.
Reader: I was disappointed in reading the letters to the editor for Saturday, Sept. 12. The header in bold print was Winners and heroes, not "losers" and "suckers." The writer of the letter to the editor obviously is not a President Trump fan. He wrote about the article written by Jeffery Goldberg in The Atlantic magazine. The author Goldberg claims that President Trump made these comments while visiting a World War I Aisne-Marne gravesite in France.
He fails to note that the article was based on anonymous sources. Several administration supporters have stated that the president never said anything derogatory regarding the veterans. Past National Security Advisor John Bolton (no friend of the president), past White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, White House deputy director of communications Dan Scavino and several others have gone on record that this article is false.
I would hope the editors of The Californian would not publish a letter that is based on anonymous sources. You should do better.
— Gary L. Williams
Peterson: The letter was based on a published report that is receiving a lot of attention. Yes, that report included anonymous sources.
A Fact Checker analysis published by The Washington Post on Tuesday states "the White House has collected the names of 25 people who claim to refute Goldberg’s reporting on the cemetery decision. Trump called them 'witnesses,' but that’s wrong. Eleven people on the list were not with Trump." The Washington Post presented the comments made by these individuals, and analyzed their level of credibility.
I anticipate that there will continue to be more reporting on what was or was not said during a presidential visit to France in 2018, and surrounding plans to visit the cemetery. Note that President Trump didn't go to the cemetery; even the exact reason for that decision (many reports cite poor weather conditions for reaching the site), and who made it, seems to be in dispute.
Anonymous sources are commonplace in White House and Washington, D.C., political reporting. It's also true that because readers tend to question anonymous and unnamed sources, The Californian uses them sparingly in its own reporting.