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SOUND OFF: Obituaries capture readers' interest

Reader: You didn't do justice to the obituary for Beverly Cleary. She wrote or published books from 1950 to 2006. In 1984 she was awarded the John Newbery Award for "Dear Mr. Henshaw." The Newbery is awarded for "The most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

Besides winning the National Book Award in 1981, she also won the National Medal for the Arts in 2003. She had a distinguished and long career as a writer of children's books.

— Laura Amstead, Ed.D.

Peterson: Laura, I agree: We didn't do justice on the obituary for Beverly Cleary, a beloved and respected author of middle grade and young adult books.

I truly wish that we had had more news space available that day. But we didn't and so the obituary offered by the Associated Press was trimmed substantially to fit the spot we had. That happens with news obituaries and news and feature stories of all types, just depending on the day, how much news is happening and how many paid advertisements are sold. We often have longer versions of non-local stories available at Bakersfield.com.

I fully recognize I am a Beverly Cleary fan. I read her books as a child. And just this week, while helping my Mom clean out and sort a massive load of boxes in her garage, I found many of those great books — "Beezus and Ramona," "Ramona Quimby, Age 8" and "Ramona Forever" — from my collection of decades ago.

My younger sister would borrow these books — and oh, would I get after her whenever she fell asleep with one and bent a cover! But we were both reading good literature, and that's what is important. Thanks, Beverly Cleary, for your contribution to my childhood.

•••

Reader: Thank you, TBC, for printing the obituary of Robert Scot Green on page A5 on March 27. I thoroughly enjoy reading the obits as it is real people and the lives they have lived. Some can be very interesting.

This one was so unique and when she was telling her son about our government, our so-called president and what happened in our 2020 election I could not agree more.

Thanks again for printing it! I guess the only way us Trump supporters can get a letter printed like the one I wrote to you on Jan. 20, 2021, thanking Trump for all his accomplishments, is to pay to do it in the obits.

I am a longtime reader and subscriber and I see 10 to 1 against conservative values, my President Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy.

— Patriot Fred T. Enyeart

Reader: I was reading the Saturday, March 27, paper and I just have to give my feedback to the 27-year anniversary "Obituary" for a said Robert Scot Green, or Mom of Robert.

In your paper, you state letters to the editor should address a SINGLE topic in no more than 250 words.

Let's be clear dear old "Mom" Gerry ran her VERY long political rant and took advantage of the obituary posts as a "way in," or, should I say a way around your paper's policy. You have now opened the floodgates for anyone with enough cash to disguise an opinion and sneak it in as an obituary remembrance.

It is sad that the person who submitted this obituary felt the need to circumvent your paper's policy, but also sad that your editors in charge didn't see this and challenge their motives.

This had NOTHING to do with a remembrance but everything of a political rant. I had a good laugh ... say hello to Lucille Ball.

I'm not counting every word. However, Robert's Mom has passed her 250 words.

— Sincerely, Leann Meek

Peterson: Thank you, Fred and Leann, for taking the time to write and sharing your thoughts about this paid remembrance. Our advertising department offers paid obituaries and remembrances, some of which are for a beloved family member or friend who has very recently died, and some of which are published years later, often on the anniversary of the person's death or their birthday.

I personally think the most compelling ones are those that tell a life story, highlighting a person's professional, community and/or familial contributions. The best ones give the reader a true sense of the person, warts and all.

But because these obituaries are paid notices — and not written by a news staff member — wide latitude is given to what is submitted and published. It's not my place as a news editor to challenge them, Leann.

(From time to time, news staff members do write news obituaries on prominent community members, or those with particularly compelling stories. Those follow news protocol.)

Fred and Leann, you both mention letters to the editor. These are vetted by Opinion staff for content and to ensure they address one topic in 250 words or less. Community Voices, addressing a significant community topic, can be up to 650 words, and occasionally we will accept one up to 800 words for the Sunday Forum page. All those rules continue to apply in the newsroom — but they don't apply to paid obituaries handled by our advertising representatives.

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.

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