Reader: I am responding to your question from last week's Sound Off, "Did we go too far in reporting on Chris Burrous' bizarre death?" Yes: You go too far in reporting on people who died with drugs because you're not considering the children.
These children have to go to school and they have to listen to comments about the situation. This is where bullying can start, and the children have nothing to do with it. As for the newscaster, I don't think it really matters how a person died. You don't put it down in the obituary.
— Yolanda Heredia
Price: You could apply that logic to anything: Embarrassment for the children of the guy who was arrested for embezzlement. Embarrassment for the children of the guy who missed the free throws at the end of the game. Embarrassment for the children of the guy whose restaurant was shut down because of rat droppings.
This is a news media outlet, and much of the news is of a negative nature. Yes, I absolutely feel sorry for innocent family members, especially those who might have lost a parent, but withholding information because it will be embarrassing or hurtful to peripheral people essentially shuts down all but the lightest, brightest news coverage. Should we take steps to avoid unnecessarily hurting family members? Of course. But our first priority is getting the story straight.
I would argue your contention that it doesn't really matter how a person died. It's human nature to wonder; we're programmed to consider our own mortality when we learn of a death. But that aside, cause-of-death details have value. They contain lessons: Be cautious of this, mindful of that. This combination of drugs, ingested in this way, can be lethal. That sort of carelessness on the job can be deadly. Cause of death matters to police, safety and medical investigators, so it should matter to readers.
Obituaries prepared by families often omit cause of death; you're right about that. That's their prerogative, and completely understandable. But news stories are different creatures.
Reader: The news reporting on Chris Burrous' death was truly unnecessary. What he did behind closed doors was his own private choice. Burrous is not alive today to tell his side of the story. The “truth” the media shared with the public damaged his family and friends.
Media looks down on him with disgust, like all of a sudden he didn’t do his job well, or he wasn’t honorable and hardworking, or a caring and loving person. They didn't think that about him prior to their knowledge of his double life.
I read your coverage here in Chino Hills, San Bernardino County.
— Jenny Hwang
Price: I don't know what gives you the impression media suddenly faults Burrous' professional ability or his humanity. You're reading between the lines. I knew him and his wife when they worked in Bakersfield, not well but well enough, and I found Chris to be funny, talented and engaging. I can't speak for others, but my opinion hasn't changed.
Reader: With regard to coverage of the Chris Burrous case, I look at it as information: I can store it, flush it, or label it in my own way. I can choose what I would like to do with it. People can process it the way they would like.
— Ernie de la Cruz
Price: I agree, but I also think mainstream media — especially a local newspaper that readers may pass around at the breakfast table — has a responsibility to limit what it shares. Anyone who really wants to delve into the sordid details of a high-profile case can find it somewhere on the web. But where is that line? That's a conversation editors here continue to debate.
Reader: I enjoy your human interest stories in The Bakersfield Californian. I live here on the eastern edge of Kern County where The Californian is not delivered, but our local library carries it. I'm too old-school to subscribe online; there's something about having the newspaper in hand, cutting out articles, etc. I'm not sure how long a paper version will survive with the technology of today. Again, thank you for your writing.
— Deric English
Price: It don't think newspapers will ever completely go away, but news delivery is now predominately internet-based, like it or not, and will only become more so. Dial up Bakersfield.com a couple of times and see if you can get the hang of it. But we'll be here in print, too.
Reader: Love the "notes" column ("Dennis Quaid sighting in a local almond orchard," Feb. 6). Hope it continues.
— Bill Matthew
Price: Thanks, Bill. The "notes" column — a collection of short, unrelated bits — has a long and proud tradition in the newspaper business. I might drop a few of them on you now and then.