Reader: I just got through reading your excellent article about the "hip-hop hero" at Starbucks ("No cape, but hip-hop hero took on machete man anyway," Robert Price, Sept. 13). I was just wondering, if Blaine or another Starbucks customer had had a concealed carry permit and took care of the guy who had the machete that way, if you could tell me honestly how you think The Bakersfield Californian would cover that.
— James Hull
Price: It would have been substantially the same story but, at the same time, quite a different story, if that makes sense.
Both stories start like this: A black-clad man walks into a Starbucks cafe and, in broad daylight, starts hacking his ex-girlfriend with a machete. Patrons scream and run. One man steps forward.
No matter what comes next, that's an enthralling, horrific introduction that's going to attract media attention — international media attention, as was the case here.
Blaine Hodge happened to take the guy on with his bare hands, and he paid a price. The twist is that he also happens to have something of an obsession with superheroes and the phenomenon we call courage. And he happens to have been working on an album of songs built on that theme: It's called "The Mind of a Hero."
You can't make that stuff up.
In the alternate universe you describe, James, a witness jumps up and, with complete justification, drops the attacker with a couple of well-placed rounds. This is still a big story, but it's a different one, because now we have introduced a political element. Assuming our armed hero's aim is true and only the attacker — not his ex-girlfriend, not a Starbucks barista, not another customer — is hit, the discussion turns toward the wisdom of arming citizens. And gun advocates would have, pardon the pun, substantial ammunition to support their point of view.
And that debate would be a big part of how The Californian — how everyone — would cover the story you describe.
We would also look at the personal story of the witness who stopped the attack, as we did with Blaine Hodge. Perhaps our fictional armed citizen would have been working on a screenplay for a "Dirty Harry" sequel. Perfect.
Reader: Shame on you and this newspaper for forgetting what happened on this day 17 years ago! Not one picture on the front page regarding 9/11. The motto is "we will never forget" but unfortunately you have.
There is not one single news story more important! One day, this day, your front cover should be reserved for stories, pictures about what happened on this day. Nothing is more important than to honor those lives lost! There are still a lot of patriotic readers out here buying this paper. Shame on you!
— "Firecat" Tom
Price: This reader's complaint was directed at TBC Media Vice President and Executive Editor Jim Lawitz, who had this to say in response:
"Really? I could not disagree more with your statement. Despite putting together the newspaper 'yesterday,' 'today' we managed to have a 'patriotic' front-page photograph (and story) honoring those who served and died post-9/11, put a notice on the front page about 9/11 events happening around Bakersfield 'today,' published a national story honoring 'today's' 17-year anniversary, and selected an editorial cartoon for the Opinion section portraying a grieving Lady Liberty with the caption 'Never Forget.'
"And not that I'd expect you to know, but we had also planned to photograph special Sept. 11 events for publication in our Sept. 12 newspaper and immediately online. I'd say that's a 'we will never forget' approach."
I'll only add this: If you expected a front-page photo of the flaming twin towers, you misjudge our purpose here. Our coverage, in addition to telling readers where they might attend commemoration ceremonies, should primarily describe the present-day consequences of that day in 2001.
Our front-page centerpiece was about the opening of the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery, which honors 27 post-9/11 servicemen who died from wounds inflicted on the battlefield. Felix Adamo's cover photo showed Judy McCarthy, wife of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, tearfully consoling the mother of a solider killed in Iraq three years after the terror attacks. That soldier was in Iraq directly because of the 9/11 attacks and is therefore as much a victim of those criminal acts as anyone in the World Trade Center. Mrs. McCarthy and everyone else at that gallery opening attended the event in the spirit of "never forget," and The Californian's Steven Mayer covered it in the same spirit.
Reader: Obviously Kevin McCarthy, President Trump's candy man, does not like “anonymous” pieces in newspapers ("A top Republican fires back at 'Anonymous,'" Sept. 11). Obviously he no longer reads The Californian, where anonymous conservative hit pieces frequently appear in Robert Price's Sound Off column. Bob just loves to apologize to those conservative Republicans.
McCarthy's Trump defense strategy is that he knows Kern's voters are stupid. Fact check: He is correct. How many times have they elected this court jester?
— Panfilo Fuentes
Price: Dear conservative Republican friends: Please, please forgive me for publishing the words of this flaming liberal.
As I've written many times, we don't publish anonymous letters to the editor. If you want to share your opinion, you must own it. Sound Off is different because its purpose is to address complaints, questions and occasionally praise concerning the way we cover the news here. If the reader is making a point I believe is worth addressing — perhaps others feel the same way — I'll publish it, even if the reader doesn't sign his or her name. Obviously, I'd prefer to attach a name.
Pete, we don't often agree, but I respect your willingness to lay it all out there and sign your name to it. Now, have a beverage and try to relax.
Since you brought it up, though: Should The New York Times have published that anonymous op-ed, purportedly written by a White House insider? Journalists have been debating that question for two weeks now. I go back and forth on it but ultimately come down on the side of publication. But I do think the writer harmed the "deep state" resistance more than he/she helped it. It made a paranoid, volatile president even more paranoid.
Reader: Robert, the new digital newspaper is great! Good job by all.
— Jim Harris
Price: Jim, if you're referring to the iPad app for the e-Edition, here's the deal: Our vendor, Olive Software, made a recent change that presents the e-Edition, via the app, in the same format you would see on a laptop or desktop computer. The change may have thrown off a few readers at first, but we're certain they'll get used to it. One big advantage: Readers can now access Bakersfield.com from the iPad app. The previous version did not allow this.
Reader: I just have to say, I don't know how you do it. It almost always takes me two or three sittings to get through your Saturday Sound Off. Then I usually read it another time or two. It's difficult to read through casually without getting upset about the crazytown vitriol that spews forth from our local haters. The mulatto reference about Barack Obama from one reader was beyond the pale.
— John O'Connell
Price: I'm torn sometimes between cleaning up that kind of unnecessarily racial language for the sake of civility and just letting people be who they are, warts and all. I let the warts show this time.