20200623-bc-standalone (copy)

Miley Reyes, 11, celebrated her sister Gabriela's 14th birthday with friends and family with a rubber duck raft trip on the Kern River at Hart Park earlier this week. While temperatures topped 100 at the park, all floaters returned safely. Some readers criticized the publication of photos showing children and teens in the river, citing safety concerns.

Reader: Really? A front page picture of a 14- and 11-year-old going into Kern River? ("Rubber ducky, you're the one," June 24).

Isn't an 11-year-old still missing in the river? Our friend's sister drowned in the river c. 1977. He was at the scene when she was pulled out three weeks later. Imagine that.

Your third cover-your-a** paragraph will fall on deaf ears after that photo spread. Shame on you.

— Beth Morse

Reader: In my position as Kern River watermaster, I must comment on today’s newspaper front page ... "Rubber ducky, you're the one."

Although there are sections of the Kern River that may be relatively safe, with precautions, in the middle of Bakersfield (west of Manor Street, when it is wet), there are sections of the river to the east that are highly dangerous. I try to add the following comment to all interviews and presentations on the Kern River: “Unless you are going on a commercial rafting trip, stay out of the Kern River.”

I worry that we may get further tragedies in the river if we waver in the “keep out” message. Getting a phone call from grieving relatives requesting to dry the river up to find a body is the worst part of my position.

— Dana S. Munn, Kern River watermaster

Peterson: Anyone who has lived here for any amount of time should have heard this message loud and clear, a million times over: "Stay out, stay alive!"

Yet do we as a news organization ignore what happens in the community, which includes people choosing to go in the Kern River? Do we ignore other choices that many would consider "bad," yet are newsworthy or reflect the community?

No. So we try to handle things as responsibly as possible, such as including this message with those river photographs: "The Kern River is a place many turn to in order to beat the heat, but safety is essential. Visitors should check river and stream conditions before heading out and always let someone know where they're going and when they'll return. A life jacket should be worn for all river activities, and families should keep a close watch on children, even if they're not near water."

Dana, I also hear your point: Would it be better if we unequivocally said: Stay out. Maybe so. I heard that message as soon as I came to this community 23 years ago, and to this day, I haven't even dipped a toe in the Kern River. I don't plan to. (However, if river rafting were my choice of recreation, I would try that under the direction of an experienced and well-trained guide.)

Beth, I hear you when you say that your sister's friend drowned in the river. Dana, I can only imagine how painful it is to take the call of a family asking you to dry the river up in hopes of finding a body. As a reporter, I have witnessed bodies being pulled from the river. It's terrible. It's horrific. It's taxing on the volunteer search and rescue personnel and law enforcement. And it's even worse when the family is right there, screaming and crying out in grief.

But do we ignore that people do go in the river for recreation, nonetheless?

•••

Reader: A large upper arm in this photo becomes a detractor/distraction, and it didn't have to be. I would have expected a professional photographer like Nick Ellis to edit it, as I quickly did on my phone. While Nick bears the major responsibility here, I also would have expected you (Ema Sasic) to check the copy of prints accompanying your story.

It's a small thing, Ema, and you're not the only one being singled out. It's just that it happens too often in our daily paper and it could/should be easily remedied. Half the fun of taking photos on my phone is editing them for just the right framing and balance. I would expect no less of a paid, professional photographer of a paper with as great a circulation as TBC.

I'd appreciate you sharing this concern at a staff meeting in the near future (or email communication with fellow staffers.) It's a small point, but may save embarrassment for future subjects. We all like to see the most flattering image of ourselves before the public.

— Regards, Mary Webb

Peterson: No, no, no! Freelance photographer Nick Ellis handled this photo shoot perfectly responsibly ("Who'll watch the kids? Child care is a primary concern for many parents with proposed back-to-school options looming," June 21). Namely, as I have said before and will likely have to say many times, photojournalists do not manipulate, edit or Photoshop photos like you do on your phone, Mary, for fun or your personal family use.

Photojournalists document what is. There may be occasions when the photographer has some control of a situation, such as when taking an environmental portrait. But the vast majority of photographs that a photojournalist takes document what is before them. Sure, they're looking for the very best storytelling shot, that split-second moment, but they don't pose people, control their facial expression or manipulate results.

Nick did everything right, as did Ema.

There are various codes of ethics a photojournalist might adhere to, including those of the Society of Professional Journalists or the National Press Photographers Association. As just one example, NPPA says in its code: "While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events" and "editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context."

Sure, I can agree we want to see flattering images of ourselves. When I saw the image you're referring to, Mary, I saw a beautiful mother helping her son with his summer school language arts assignment. That's pretty flattering to me! Hooray for this mom!

•••

Reader: Your picture of owner Erika Flores at Casa Flores restaurant was certainly not in good taste, wearing her mask under her chin while cooking. I for one will never eat there, during this Virus 19 (how unsanitary). Apparently she cares nothing about protecting herself or customers.

— Jan Marberry

Peterson: Masks, no masks ... the debate rages on in our pages and in our community. One thing I will repeat: We don't tell people to put on a mask before we take their photograph. We reflect what is in our photojournalism, not what should be. And of course, there's always the fact that not everyone agrees on the should.

•••

Reader: I think any of the whiners who accuse you and TBC of liberal bias have been completely shut down with the publication of the Community Voices piece "A choice between civil war or secession" (June 22). Bravo. A straight-out white nationalist/Confederate opinion essay! Amazing.

I particularly liked the observation that if we'd only let the South secede we wouldn't have had to pass those pesky civil rights/human rights laws. Who wants those??

The thing about the column that stresses me the most is that the author is a retired mechanical engineer. He's obviously smarter than I am and yet he holds these abhorrent opinions. Wow.

— Jay C. Smith

Peterson: The Opinion section is certainly filled with a variety of perspectives.

•••

Reader: Being so weary of reading about murder and burglary in Bakersfield, I am so hopeful that you will follow President Trump's suggestion and stop reporting on crime. Obviously, crime will go down. Who wouldn't vote for that? However, my hope is that you will continue to inform concerned readers.

— Ruth Richardson

Peterson: I am weary of crime, too, as a burglary victim, member of this community and as an editor who must read about it every day. As weary as I am, just like you are, Ruth, we will continue to report on crime and inform concerned readers.

•••

Reader: More great local stories from Robert Price. Who knew that The Daughters of the Confederacy still existed, let alone have a chapter in Bakersfield. Missed Sound Off on Saturday, June 20. Hope you are well. Keep up the good work, Christine.

— John O'Connell

Reader: I was disappointed with the lack of a Sound Off page in Saturday’s paper (June 20), and I figured it was because we deserved a cooling-off period of sorts; maybe you could have offered an explanation. However, you devoted a portion of your opinion section to ... Jim Hansen, who suggested that if Biden wins in November we’ll have some civil war secession moment. People like Alex Jones with their tin-foil hat conspiracies have no place in reputable newspapers like yours. Please don’t keep going this direction; it’s beneath you and the reputation of The Bakersfield Californian. Thank you for your service and expertise.

— With Gratitude, Warren Rabe

Reader: In case you were wondering, the absence of Sound Off today (June 20) was noticed and it was missed.

— Alvin Gregorio

Peterson: The message from John, Warren and Alvin is clear: Don't skip a week of Sound Off! But it might happen from time to time, when there are no letters appropriate for Sound Off or myriad responsibilities (this is one tiny fraction of my job) take me away from Sound Off.

Warren, I like your idea that maybe "we deserved a cooling-off period of sorts." And to your other point, like I shared with Jay C. Smith above, we allow for a variety of perspectives in the Opinion section.

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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(1) comment

Masked 2020

Miguel…opinion writer….… we are at a 130,00 now….. is that enough?........By Miguel Nidever Apr 23, 2020 COMMUNITY VOICES: America: Land of the sheltered-in-place and the home of the fearful? A virus has brought the world’s superpower to its knees, something that none of its human enemies have ever accomplished. A cadre of health experts, armed with a doomsday computer model originating in England predicting 2.2 million deaths in the U.S, did the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a packed theater. Panicked Americans have handed over without a whimper their hard-won rights of freedom of assembly and worship, all because of a virus that is proving to be not significantly more lethal than the seasonal flu – the CDC recorded 60,099 flu deaths in the 2017-2018 flu season vs. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s latest projection of 61,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus.

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