Reader: I have never understood why you allow people to hide behind pseudonyms.
I’ve been writing for newspapers (including this one) since I was 10 years old and was always taught that real names must appear on letters and comments.
That’s been the rule at every paper I wrote for or published.
I always use the example of John Hancock and the rest of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who committed treason to King George III by signing.
The best way to stop yahoos from acting like yahoos is to make them sign their real names.
— Bill Deaver
Reader: I strongly support ending online comments. Often they feel like the poop in the punch bowl. I’ll read an interesting and thoughtful article and then accidentally stray into the comments only then to feel my fellow readers are idiots.
That probably isn’t even fair. I feel many of the frequent commenters (moardeeb?? Gene pool chlorinator??) are just spam bots. Sent to misinform and divide.
I feel the trend for a long time has been to eliminate online comments. These comments add nothing to your content and insult the hardworking journalists who work for you.
— Andrew Kendall
Reader: Prior to the digital age, commenting on a story that appeared in the local newspaper was not a simple task. Not only did you have to coherently write out your thoughts, and get it to the physical newspaper office, but the words you wrote were forever attached to your name and face. The digital age has made it possible for people to make comments, for which their name and face are not attached to said statements. Like other online local newspapers around the country, TBC can make better rules for participation in the comments section. Here are some suggestions.
1. Require people to provide the TBC with a real name, current address and current phone number. People could still use fake names to post comments. But, that fake name would be held accountable for comments made by TBC.
2. Require folks who do not live in Kern County to subscribe to TBC, in order to post comments.
3. TBC has an obligation to make sure that its comment section is not a playground for people who are paid to make inflammatory statements or spread misinformation. Adult supervisor is required. That means TBC may have to pay someone to be "the adult in charge" of the comments section.
Many of us gave up on the TBC comments sections years ago, because they had been taken over by an army of non-Kern County individuals who were paid to spread misinformation and cause general mayhem. Restrictions on who, and under what terms one can use the comments section, could change it from the Clown Show it is now. I believe it's worth saving.
— Noel Pineo
Reader: In today’s online (and quarantined) world, many people get their news from websites that likely align with their political, sociological and religious viewpoints. Or worse, from social media. What is missing is social interactions and discussions.
While comments on stories may invite some absurd or inappropriate comments, there are often worthwhile comments to ponder. It can also allow the reader to gain some insight on how many in the public feel about an issue.
In my opinion, continuing to allow comments is really vital in today’s world. Sometimes they are even more interesting than the original story ...
Reader: Story commenting online should definitely go. Most commenters just enjoy “popping off.” They vent their negativity, thinking themselves witty, clever. Society’s had enough vitriol and inflammatory remarks. At the very least, it should be mandatory to sign one’s name and phone number or address. What’s to fear? (QAnon?)
There needs to be accountability; ownership of one’s ideas and opinions. I have occasionally voiced my opinion in the Letters to the Editor section where the aforementioned ARE required.
We don’t need any more anonymous forums that serve to rile and incite in less than 10 words. (Rile readers instead by carefully chosen paragraphs sent to the “Letters” section with one’s name affixed. Ha.)
— Mary Webb
Reader: Yes, people should be allowed to comment. Some have info that is not published in the BC. It’s also good to have a perspective of opinions, rather than the sometimes slanted viewpoint of the BC.
— John Goss
Reader: The thoughtful person in me thinks democracy is our greatest legacy. I understand that people need a soapbox to make their ideas heard.
That being said, I think the comment section has been abused by people or bots. The internet allows a person or thing to be anonymous. Soapboxes do not.
If you want to comment, have them sign a real name.
If you want to spread unhelpful comments, deceptions, lies, or name calling, or worse, save that for Facebook.
— Bill Peloquin
Reader: Boy, Christine, that’s a tough one. At least our readers are reading and commenting online — not that I would know. I’ve never joined or followed any social media because I never felt comfortable giving companies so much valuable personal information, and then leaving electronic ant-trails for someone to follow, often years later. Oops ...
Philosophically, is graffiti free speech, or vandalism? Both, but mostly vandalism.
Should story commenting online at Bakersfield.com stay, or should it go? Even if it has some snarkiness, let it stay. Everyone’s a critic, and I should know. As long as it’s meant in a gentile, teasing way, snarkiness can be fun.
Freedom of speech also means freedom to not speak, and freedom to write a mean, snark-filled comment without ID’ing yourself is also permitted, but that doesn’t mean The Bakersfield Californian has to print it — that’s freedom of speech, too.
— Matthew Clinton Jett
Reader: I have responded but I think that too many of them just hurl insults.
— Claudia Keith
Reader: I think it's worth noting that sometimes better article commentary can be found in other sources, such as the Bakersfield Reddit. For example, a recent Kern County Fair article yielded three comments on Bakersfield.com, while a Reddit post about the article yielded nine. This isn't true of every article, but happens enough to warrant looking for alternate sources when seeking more meaningful commentary.
— Roberto Padilla
Reader: I have reported the same people several times for the personal attacks and off-topic chatter. I don’t bother trying to write a serious letter, I’ve seen the futility. I think if they put their name on it that would help. If the bar was a little higher on truth and less on slinging slogans and insults around and more like the standards for a letter to the editor. Thank you.
— Jack Cummings
Reader: Sound Off I feel should be kept to provide voices for the general population to express their views. However, the comments should be condensed better to reflect only the more important points and to give more space to other sensible comments or opinions unless the purpose is only to fill up the allotted space.
— David Losa
Reader: Christine, I enjoy the FB articles from The Californian but I VOTE to just have the ability of the EMOJI response. If someone wants to say something — like me sometimes, let them write to the Opinion and stand on their opinion. There is entirely to doggone much TRASH TALK and I think that that is just ONE of the reasons we are in this disrespectful, unruly, self-centered time.
At 74, and counting, my parents would roll over in their grave to hear such junk. We were always taught — if you cannot say something nice, say NOTHING at all. I still believe in this, but with a little caveat — say something constructive and productive, not bitter, racial, cruel and false words.
So my vote is EMOJI only ... thumbs up, sad, surprised, mad, caring, crying ... Straight NEWS ... NO comments unless written to OPINION with author name, address, phone. Makes the author accountable for his or her remarks. Thanks for listening.
— Michelle Claxton
Reader: I read your Sound Off piece about comments to Bakersfield.com articles.
I am absolutely in favor of removing comments! The comments section of your website has turned into a cesspool of people with too much time on their hands bullying each other. Most commenters seem to come into the comment section attempting to push the same agenda over and over again. They also apparently have an arch nemesis with whom they spar on each article. I'm so sick of all the name-calling in our current society. It's not the way our neighbors (should) act in real life and I fear it will only get worse and worse.
I know that the solution to my problem with the comments section is to simply not read them but, invariably, when I see there are 44 comments on a seemingly innocuous article, I just have to look!
If The Californian chooses NOT to remove the comments section, I think another valid solution would be to institute strict moderation. Of course, your regular commenters will cry foul and claim their rights are being taken away when their post is removed.
Sometimes Californian articles get posted to our city's subreddit (reddit.com/r/Bakersfield) and I MUCH prefer the comments there to the ones on the Californian's website. This could be explained by simply different types of people who would use a newspaper's website vs. a social media website. However, I think the difference is better explained by how each website handles comments. On reddit, the community can vote up a comment or vote it down. Comments that do not contribute to the conversation get pushed further down in the comments section and, if they receive enough negative feedback, could be hidden altogether.
Thanks for allowing for discussion on The Californian's website policies and thanks for taking the time to read this email!
— Leslie Edwards
Peterson: Thanks to all the readers who chimed in on whether comments left on stories at Bakersfield.com should stay or go. I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness of the opinions. There are no easy answers here — and no decision is being made today. But you have all provided salient points for our news team and publisher to consider.
What I can say now: Letters to the editor that are published in the Opinion section online and in print must have a person's true name and city or town of residence. Yes, I receive requests to publish anonymous letters to the editor. The answer is "no" and continues to be.
Also, my preference in Sound Off is signed letters. However, if someone compliments or criticizes our news coverage, or simply asks how or why we do what we do, I will consider an unsigned letter if I think answering the question is of benefit to the general readership.
Reader: I very much appreciate the profiles The Californian is producing concerning the student athletes of the county. Their accomplishments are inspiring to all of us. These profiles can inspire younger students to accomplish their goals and help parents see what is possible.
I think it would be very good for The Californian to also produce profiles of some of our academic standouts and their educational and professional goals. These profiles could be very inspiring for younger students and parents to see pathways and possibilities for those less athletically inclined.
Sports and those who excel at them are very important to all of us, as too should be the those academically inclined students who will join our sports stars in the future to be our community leaders, teachers, scientists and business entrepreneurs.
— Michael Couchot
Peterson: I get it. I was a serious academics person — think Academic Decathlon and Academic League — and most certainly not a sports person. I loved the competition that came from being on those two teams, but I was exercising my brain, not my body, and that wasn't recognized as athletes were. And thus, my name never showed up in the pages of a newspaper until it did as a byline, when I was the one reporting and writing the news stories.
Michael, your timing is great. Our publisher and I were just speaking about writing about standout students two weeks ago. And our new education reporter joined us this week. Stay tuned, and expect some great work from Emma Gallegos. Standout student profiles are on the list.
Reader: My main takeaway from today's (Saturday, Aug. 22) TBC front page, is that we have a lot of good people in Bakes and Kern County. We are all in this together. Keep up the good work. Thank you, TBC.
— John O'Connell
Peterson: Bakes?! I haven't heard that one in a while. You made me smile.
John, I think there are a lot of good people doing good things in our communities. We just have to remember that amid all the negativity — and work to capture the good in our pages and website, too.