Jeff Hicks

Former Liberty coach Jeff Hicks

Reader: I don’t know why you are sensationalizing news, but this ("Sexual misconduct charges sought against ex-Liberty coach," Nov. 30) is ridiculous and harmful. Shame on The Californian for this kind of news.

— Kathy Torchia 

Price: I'm not seeing any sensationalization in our story about former Liberty basketball coach and teacher Jeff Hicks, who faces possible charges of sexual battery and annoying a child. In fact, our story was pretty tame — a mere 169 words, most of it near-verbatim verbiage from the Bakersfield Police Department and Hicks' employer, the Kern High School District. Our story is so devoid of supplementary description or analysis, it's downright antiseptic.

We invest a special kind of trust in schoolteachers because we put our children in their care for six or more hours a day, five days a week, so there is tremendous interest in these cases among the reading public. That said, Hicks and every other suspect and potential suspect deserve the presumption of innocence.

But when the BPD, after reviewing the evidence, is sufficiently confident that charges are warranted to make that recommendation to the district attorney, the case has breached a certain threshold and public notice is justified.

Every case like this that receives publicity, I like to think, makes it that much less likely that another teacher will succumb to this sort of temptation.

Reader: Your Nov. 11 front page featured the defeat of Measure N with the headline “City faces lean years after voters reject tax measure.” Too bad it didn’t feature Measure N prior to the election. When the city and the county first placed these measures on the ballot several months ago, I did some research to find out how the two measures would work. After that, I saw very little about them, either in the paper or on television.

You wonder why neither passed? That’s why. Nobody but the most diligent voters knew anything about them. And when faced with a sales tax increase that they knew nothing about, most voters reflexively voted no. If a sales tax increase is so important to the welfare of this city, how come nobody campaigned in favor of it? How come there weren’t more articles in the paper? How come nobody canvassed for it? Come on, folks, when something’s that important, you should be shouting it from the rooftops.

— Martha Warriner

Price: We could always give more ink to issues of local importance, but we gave these sales tax proposals pretty good rides. Our Sam Morgen wrote at least four stories on measures N and I, which we paired in order to better explain their differences and consequences relative to each other, and I interviewed two prominent figures associated with them, City Manager Alan Tandy and Sheriff Donny Youngblood, in taped webcasts.

It bears noting, too, that our editorial board endorsed both measures. We published an editorial laying out the board's reasoning and repeatedly noted its support in our Opinion section.

Many people reflexively vote no on all tax measures, sometimes without doing much research. For those who are truly interested in learning more about what they're voting for, the information is quite easy to obtain.

Measure N, by the way, has made a late rally and as of Friday trailed by only 13 votes with a few hundred ballots yet to process. Sadly for the sheriff, however, Measure I was resoundingly defeated.

Reader: As if Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that equated money with "free speech," weren’t bad enough, the aspect that well-heeled groups can pay huge amounts of money to “speak” — say, for a well financed TV ad campaign — but have the lawful ability to hide behind 501(c)(4) nonprofit status to remain anonymous is flat wrong.

No matter how they slice and dice it, the ability to speak freely should come with the necessity to take responsibility for that speech. The ability to speak anonymously is the perfect avenue to speak irresponsibly. An example of irresponsible speech was that nationwide TV ad sponsored by some 501(c)(4) that warned darkly of the dystopia that would result if we voted for Democrats.

I tried to catch the name of the organization that sponsored that ad but it flashed so quickly I didn’t get it, except that its name ended in a number.

— Stephen A. Montgomery

Price: Yep, the Citizens United decision, which I maintain is an example of what one might call conservative "judicial activism," is the gift that keeps on giving. Both liberal- and conservative-dominated Supreme Courts are capable of judicial activism, which is usually nothing more than an interpretation of the Constitution that your side disagrees with.

Reader: Love your work. Please keep writing. One quick thing: Can you stop featuring comments from one reader in particular? His rhetoric is nothing short of overtly racist. Completely anti-Mexican and full of hate. I worry that by bringing up his name, you're giving him a platform on which to speak his hateful garbage instead of relegating him to where he belongs: the fringes of society. He's hateful, and I don't think your articles work in that spirit at all.

Thanks for the consideration and keep up the good work.

— Roberto de Leon

Price: If I don't print you-know-who's criticisms, everyone is deprived of my scathingly witty responses. But I suppose you've got a good point. I'll rein it in.


The Californian's Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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