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SOUND OFF: Who gets to decide what's interesting, boring in the news?

Reader: Here's an evaluation of front-page articles in the Sept. 28 edition.

"In absence of family presence for deceased veterans, community fills the gap" — Boring, accompanied by an excessive number of also boring photos whose main purpose is simply to fill space.

— Signed, John Sweetser

Peterson: OK, John. Thanks for weighing in with your evaluation. Here's mine:

"Grapes nab top spot in 2020 crop report" — Fascinating! The annual crop report captures the 2020 gross value — $7.7 billion — of all agricultural commodities produced in Kern County. The value represents a 1 percent increase from the 2019 crop value. I would think people would be interested in how our agricultural industry is faring. Is this not one of the biggest, most important industries in our county?

"BC: New learning center set for Delano campus" — Important! Both Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield are making tremendous strides to serve more students, and not just at their main campuses. They're opening more and more opportunities to rural communities. I would think a $14.41 million allocation to fund a new Learning Resource Center in Delano to reach even more students would be of interest to readers.

"In absence of family presence for deceased veterans, community fills the gap" — Heartbreaking for these honored veterans, yet inspiring that dedicated community members — strangers to these veterans, really — would apply their love, time and talent to mourn and recognize those who served in the military and had no family to accompany them to their final resting place. Too many photos of this Unaccompanied Veterans Ceremony? Nope. Beautiful images by photojournalist Alex Horvath deserve to be seen by readers.

So, thanks for your take, John, but I respectfully disagree.

•••

Reader: I can't believe your newspaper refuses to publish anything or an editorial on President Biden's infrastructure bill for $3.5 trillion. This is a very important piece of legislation that will help many Americans out of poverty and prepare them for a bright future. It will help seniors with in-home long-term care, it will provide preschool for families, and free community college. This piece of legislation will help decrease the homeless population and will tax the rich.

We rubber-stamp defense spending as if we're handing out candy during Halloween. This year, we will spend more than $733 billion; it is estimated we will spend more than $10 trillion in defense spending.

America, let's invest on our most precious commodity, ourselves.

— William Guerrero, Bakersfield

Peterson: Bill, are we reading the same newspaper? Refusing to publish anything on President Biden's infrastructure bill? I don't think so.

Among the stories in our Nation & World section in recent days: "Biden plans at stake, Pelosi pushes for $3.5T deal" (Friday); "Rewriting the plan; President Biden intensifies talks, with big overhaul plans at stake" (Thursday); "Big pressure to trim $3.5T federal overhaul" (Wednesday); "GOP blocks bill to keep government going; new try ahead" (this story included information on the infrastructure debate, too, on Tuesday); "Pelosi vows to pass infrastructure, eyes smaller social bill" (Monday); "Biden risks losing support from Democrats amid DC gridlock" (Sunday). That's just one week.

Plus, we had a great editorial cartoon on the Opinion page Friday depicting Progressives, Moderates, Blue Dogs and the GOP playing "The Price is Right" on infrastructure with President Biden.

Now, perhaps you mean that The Californian hasn't penned its own editorial — a Sunday "Our View" on our take on the infrastructure bill. That would be correct. For years, we have focused our Sunday editorial on very local issues. Would the passage of an infrastructure deal have local impact? Yes. So maybe we'll take this up.

But I disagree that we're "refusing" to "publish anything" on the infrastructure bill.

•••

Reader: I want to commend The Bakersfield Californian for their Sept. 11, 2021, edition, which honored the losses and memories on the 20th anniversary of our most tragic day. The stories brought tears to my eyes AGAIN. Thank you, and God Bless America.

— Brian Smith

Peterson: Thank you, Brian, for your kind words about our 16-page special section remembering our fellow citizens who lost their lives on that tragic day, and paying honor and respect to first responders who risked and gave their lives working to save others.

Our goal was to do our small part to remember this day, for which no amount of words could do justice to the loss and sacrifices.

•••

Reader: I found the Aug. 29 column from Dear Prudence highly offensive and I am disappointed that you encourage this kind of thinking. Her suggestion that if you have right-leaning views then you’re going to give hateful messages to a child is ridiculous and the kind of "us and them" thinking that is not helping this country.

Surely you can find somebody with less prejudice to write this kind of a column. Bakersfield has traditionally been a conservative town, with some of the best people in California. Shame on her for making these assumptions.

— Sincerely, Denise Dudley

Peterson: I agree, Denise: Bakersfield has some of the best people in California. I've met many in more than 24 years of living and working here. 

I thought the columnist's topic was good — navigating letting one's children spend time at a home where the political or social views don't match one's own. But as I re-read the column after receiving your note, Denise, I also can clearly see not all of our readers would agree with the advice from this syndicated columnist, who did take a jab at, in the columnist's words, "far-right views."

I disagree, however, that publishing an advice or opinion column equals "encouraging this kind of thinking." We publish quite a variety of advice and opinions. Agree with what you want, consider other opinions, and leave the rest behind. We're not all — including me — going to agree with everything we read.

•••

Reader: I was moved and inspired to hear about the expansion of In Your Wildest Dreams consignment store ("In Your Wildest Dreams owner moving to much larger location, taking antique dealers with her," Sept. 26). The brilliance of opening the location to antique vendors is great. I think people enjoy being part of sustainable and affordable shopping! It’s also great to see the community come together. We live in a very generous town! Thank you for finding some good and inspirational news!!!!

— Sara Silvestro

Peterson: Reporter Steven Mayer responded to Sara, and I'll share that here:

"Thanks so much for your appreciation and encouragement. Sunday's story about In Your Wildest Dreams moving to F Street (and rescuing some mom-and-pop antique dealers in the process) seemed to capture readers' hearts. I felt very fortunate to be able to write that story from the inside.

"With so much difficulty and suffering in the world — and in our community — it is refreshing to the spirit to be able to write about and read about something so uplifting.

"Thank you again for sharing your response, Steven Mayer"

•••

Reader: Sound Off — you retire it? Guess with not much to glorify Trump there is nothing of importance to the regulars. I miss (Robert) Price getting back at them good.

— Donna Jackson

Reader: Where you been? Did you get fired? Or did you get put on probation? Or just a long hot summer?

— yorkies2014

Peterson: As I shared with Donna via email, Sound Off is not retired. But I need letters asking actual questions about news coverage to answer. I haven't received many of late.

Yorkies, I am not fired. I am not on probation. And yes, sometimes I report and write news stories. (Since you included a story I wrote on the French Fire in your email.) Perhaps you asked because I have not written a Sound Off every week. Sound Off is dependent on having enough coherent letters to respond to, and the minutes to do it. Sound Off is just one very tiny part of what I do. Hopefully I've made up for the Sound Off absence today!

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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Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 158,270

  • Deaths: 1,828

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 150,950 

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.04

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 92.62 Updated: 12/3/2021.

  • Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department