Reader: Shame on you for writing this article ("'Mikey Smash,' killed in downtown knifing, had apparent Hells Angels affiliation," Feb. 21). You state you contacted his family and got no response. First of all, can they not grieve in peace? Second of all, because they don’t respond that gives you the right to publish this one-sided story? To know Mikey was to know that, once he cared about you, he would give you his last.
Reader: Ironic the media has yet once again only pulled out the negative side of a story. There have been many deaths, fights and injuries in the downtown vicinity and all over Bakersfield. Where is the focus on the suspect(s)?
— Angie March
Reader: Wow, Bakersfield Californian. Did you gather all your information from a Facebook profile? What you describe about Michael based on his profile does not depict the type of person he was.
— Niicole Torres
Reader: I started bawling when I saw this (Feb. 18 photo of Mikey Morales on Bakersfield.com). It’s haunting me that he was lying alone in the street. Now I get to see it, and god forbid his children ever see it. They literally could’ve used any other photo. Shame on you, Bakersfield Californian — that’s someone’s father, family and best friend.
— Khloe Bean
Price: The stories about the Feb. 16 stabbing death of "Mikey Smash" — as Michael Adam Morales was known to some — inspired impassioned discussion about our coverage. Some felt our work presented a one-sided portrayal of the victim, a well-liked guy, and a father, who may have had some affiliation with the Hells Angels motorcycle club, based on off-the-record conversations and other sources including his own Facebook account.
Our Steven Mayer reached out to the Morales family and they acknowledged his effort, but he did not receive a callback. That's not uncommon, and it's totally understandable. Often, families in these situations do respond, though: They want to humanize the person they lost, celebrate his or her life, and fill in details they don't want media to overlook. I have had families invite me into their homes and gather aunts, uncles and cousins around the fireplace to paint loving tributes of the deceased. As reporters, we never know what we're going to get until we ask. But this was the Morales family's choice, at least for now, and I completely respect it.
Terra: Why did we go forward with a "one-sided" story? It's simply our duty to report homicides, especially homicides as public as this one, two blocks from City Hall. More stories will follow: Bakersfield police are pursuing leads on the stabbing as you read this. More complete pictures of the man and the circumstances that led to his death will emerge. Police aren't done and neither are we.
Imagine a world where media simply stops covering a story because an important source has declined to comment. That would pretty much shoot down every controversial story, wouldn't it?
Niicole: Facebook and other social media platforms are always good places to start when few other sources of information are immediately available. All news organizations do it. Police do it, too, and, for that matter, so do potential employers. Michael's Facebook account may not depict every aspect of his life and character, but it was what he personally chose to share with the rest of the world. It also helped Mayer reach out to his family. Had friends or family chosen to talk, the information from Facebook wouldn't have seemed inadequate.
Khloe: The photo by our Stacey Shepard — a wide shot of the overall crime scene, including Morales' body, completely covered by a yellow tarp — was taken from the second floor of the 18th Street parking garage. It looked down on Eye Street, near the Wall Street Alley, and took in a relatively broad panorama. No other shots were really available because police had blocked off the area.
I don't think the shot was intrusive. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I believe your problem might not be so much with our coverage, including the photo, as it is with your sadness at having lost a friend in this way. Certainly the photo did not ease anyone's pain. I get it, and I'm sorry for your loss.
Reporter Mayer adds this: "Nowhere in the story is Mikey’s character even questioned. He’s not described as a bad person. The longtime proprietor of Guthrie’s Alley Cat never specifically mentioned Mikey, although he did express general concerns, based on years of experience, about biker club members in his bar."
Reader: I enjoyed your column in The Californian regarding the death and investigation of Matt Warren ("Eighty years later, we've identified Matt Warren's killer, we think," Feb. 17). My dad, Ralph Kreiser, was intimately involved in that investigation, as you reported, since he was a staff writer at the paper.
My mother, Grace, used to tell me that Dad knew who the killer was but he never told me even after many late-night chats around the kitchen table that he and I had together.
She use to say that Dad also knew "where the bodies were buried" around Bakersfield. I remember once opening a box containing several 8-by-10 black-and-white prints of the murder scene and the possible murder weapon, a large piece of metal pipe. Those were some pretty gruesome images but, after all, it was the news.
Anyway, I enjoyed your article and I learned quite a bit, filling in the blanks of the story as I knew it. I'm sure whoever is remaining in the Warren family today is thankful for the information as well. Thanks for the report. Well done.
— Ed Kreiser
Price: The unsolved murder of the father of former California Gov. Earl Warren, perhaps the city's most famous son, has always intrigued me. Kudos to Chris Livingston and the archivists at Cal State Bakersfield's Walter Stiern Library for excavating all of those documents from the investigation, including the grisly photos you mention.
Reader: After reading the article “Felony cruelty charge filed in dog-dragging case,” featured in the Feb. 16 Californian, I am left with one question: Why was the article accompanied by a photo of the suspect, Elaine Rosa, looking somewhat unconcerned and possibly a little confused, rather than the photo shown previously, wherein the dog’s bloody paws were more pronounced and Ms. Rosa was wearing a grin from ear to ear?
— Ernie Bentley
Price: I don't know that we gave the decision a lot of thought. The dog's paws are bloody enough in both photos, and the unsmiling shot of Rosa was more reflective of the seriousness of the incident.
Reader: David Letterman used to read odd newspaper headlines on "The Late Show." A print headline in your Feb. 22 Sports section, "Seven locals advance to girls quarters," would qualify. Yikes! My first thought was, "Oh dear, I hope those girls are OK." Hopefully their wrestling skills would save them. The boys' headline, "Seven boys wrestlers advance to quarterfinals" left no room for misinterpretation.
— Alison Arnold
Price: I have been informed that the girls — seven of them, coincidentally — are just fine, but I'm sure they'd be appreciative of your concern.