Reader: I refer to the Associated Press article in the Jan. 10 Californian headlined “Trump stalks out of shutdown session with Dems.” Who fact-checks Associated Press material and associated headlines? There are conflicting reports in the article sourced both from Democrats and Republicans about President Trump’s demeanor when leaving the negotiating meeting at the White House upon learning from Nancy Pelosi that she would not fund the wall to protect the Mexico/U.S. border if he reopened the government. 

Either he stalked out or (the not-used characterization) he walked out. Which one is the truth? The meeting was called to negotiate a solution. Ms. Pelosi’s reply clearly indicated that she would not negotiate. Meeting over! President Trump left, I am sure with disappointment, but probably not unexpectedly so.

The use of the words “stalks out” implies a certain negative attitude which, truthful or not, the authors clearly wanted to impart to the readers, as did the headline, which I suspect was added by TBC staff, and which simply reinforces the rampant Trump negativity by the press more emphatically. This is another example of hyperbole, which has been covered recently in Sound Off, this time used by the press and not the reader when submitting material to you.

— Richard W. Burritt

Price: Associated Press editors edit (and therefore "fact-check") Associated Press articles. Our staff gives these stories an additional read-through and adds the headline — usually some version of the wire service's suggested headline, modified to account for the available space on our printed page. And that was the case here: The AP's suggested headline was, "Trump stalks out of shutdown talks with Dems, says 'bye-bye.'" Several newspapers used it verbatim or nearly so.

"Stalked out" definitely suggests petulant behavior, which corroborates Nancy Pelosi's description of the president's actions and demeanor. Republicans, as the AP noted prominently in the story, said President Trump did not raise his voice or pound on any tables. So, yes, two versions of Trump's behavior and ultimate exit from the room are out there. Which is correct? We don't know, but by using versions of the term "stalk out" rather than the more neutral "walk out" in the headline and first sentence, the AP did seem to accept the Democrats' side of the story over the Republicans'.

Now, past observation of this president does lend credibility to the possibility that the term "stalk" properly characterized Trump's departure from the meeting. But we don't know that to be the case. Trump's sarcastic parting words, "bye-bye," which in a tweet he himself acknowledged having crafted, suggest he didn't just amble out of the room as if he were searching for a stapler. "Bye-bye" suggests his exit was intentionally theatrical, lending credibility to the "stalked out" description. "Meeting over!," as you say, Richard. But "stalk" is a subjective term that colors Trump testy and sulky, and we don't know that to be an indisputable fact in this case. 

So I agree with you.

Reader: I don't live in or near Bakersfield. Never have. And I'm not really certain how I stumbled across Sound Off. But when I landed on your Jan. 12 column, I started reading. And I really loved what I read.

I've been involved in daily newspapers for nearly 40 years. Somehow, I'm still involved. Yes, I've seen technology change, along with many people's trust in what we do.

But what I really miss is the attitude I saw in your column. You give respect to those who write to you. What a novel concept. I'm sure there are times where you'd love to chew them out. There may even be times where you actually do it. But I suspect you do it in a mostly respectful manner.

My point is, when I read that column, I admired the interaction you were willing to have with the readers. Among most of my colleagues, the very idea of saying "you're right" to a reader is unthinkable. In my opinion, we ought to say it more often. It was reassuring to see that there is another journalist out there willing to say it. And in the column I read, you dared to say it not just once, but three times.

Keep up the fight.

— David L. in Cincinnati

Price: Few things are more irritating than someone who believes he or his organization are never wrong. We at this media company are often wrong, usually by accident or honest oversight, but sometimes because our human biases get in the way of that elusive ideal, objectivity. The least we can do is cop to it and try to do better.

We should also be able to defend ourselves when we think we're right, and I have no problem doing that, either.

Reader: I’m one of those old readers who clings to the feel of the newspaper in my hands while I enjoy my morning coffee, so I didn’t hesitate to wrap up in rain gear for the walk down to the end of my driveway this morning. But no paper there. Bummer. I walked to the edge of the street, checked the gutter and scanned up and down as far as I could see. No paper. Just as I was about to give up, thinking that this would be a morning of unsatisfying iPad reading, and hoping the thing was charged up, a white object caught my eye.

There, across the street and up about 100 feet, was my Monday Californian, plastered against my neighbors’ fence by the wet wind. Delivery had not failed me after all. A 58 closure had not prevented the arrival of my trusty morning paper. Life was good. Comfortable, familiar routine was only temporarily interrupted by the elements and the lightweight-ness of the Monday edition. I came back in my front door wet and wind-blown but satisfied. The coffee smelled and tasted better. Thanks to the careful packaging, the paper was dry. The comics were in the right place and appropriately entertaining. Life is good.

As I finished the comics and started backwards, pausing at the horoscopes before getting to the serious stuff, a headline caught my eye. “Wart if alt,ernatives,industry moves to guard a word: meat." Interesting. I attributed the headline to a very creative autocorrect glitch.

— Pam Wildermuth

Price: Autocorrect? Let's go with that. Actually, we have no idea. Distraction and deadline-induced haste are frequently the culprits in these matters but that seems not to have been the case here. (The headline should have read, "Wary of alternatives, ...") Some failure in the human/computer interface is also possible. I do know this: Night-side headline writers are like football offensive linemen. Do your job and people barely notice, but get flagged for holding and Jim Nantz is tsk-tsking about you on national television.

By the way, your harrowing story of newspaper retrieval was inspiring — as gritty and heroic a tale of perseverance in the face of daunting elements as any Pony Express saga. Well, practically.

Reader: Regarding reader Kerry McGill’s objection to the “Sunrise at Avila Beach” photo — he suggested that a sunrise over the Pacific wasn't possible — you are both wrong. Since neither Missouri (McGill’s home) nor that beach is “local,” you can be forgiven for the error.

California’s coastline is far from a smooth, all-west-facing one. Avila Beach is one of many south-facing beaches. It is flanked by bluffs to the east and west. From the western bluff, one can easily see eastward across Avila Beach, the opposite bluffs, and San Luis Obispo Bay.

San Luis Bay Inn is located on that western bluff, and is clearly visible on Google Maps, just west of the estuary. Several of its rooms face east. Having stayed at the inn many times, I vouch for the fact that sunrises can be spectacularly beautiful from there.

— Rick Ridenour

Reader: I was the one who sent in the picture of the sunrise at Avila Beach. I took it myself and sent it in, so I know it's true! It was taken around 6:40 in the morning from my room at the San Luis Bay Inn. If you look at Avila on a map, the beach does not actually face directly west (like Pismo). So from my vantage point, you actually could see the sunrise on the left and set on the right. And if you are on the beach you will not be directly looking at a sunset unless you are turned to the right.

I have included a photo of an Avila Beach sunset, facing the other direction from my balcony.

— Debra Vergara

Price: Well, then Mr. McGill and I have both done you wrong! My apologies. I wondered if this kind of geographic alignment was a possibility — and also worried that perhaps we had mislabeled it on our end. In any case, beautiful shot. I'll have to book a room there.

Reader: Regarding your Jan. 12 Sound Off response to Don Kurtz suggesting that 1900 Wilson Road, which is west of Union Avenue, qualifies as east Bakersfield: East Bakersfield starts at Union Avenue. East Brundage, East California, East 18th, etc., all start there.

— Anthony Bernal

Reader: Here it is, Bob, concise and colorful: I have sent you a map of Bakersfield and the geographic section labels we should be using. You were a little harsh on Don Kurtz when he called out for saying 1900 Wilson Road was east Bakersfield. Technically it is southeast Bakersfield, as my nifty map proves.

Reporting from northwest Bakersfield.

— Sue Castro

Price: So no one agrees! Anthony, I've heard Union Avenue used as the delineator for east Bakersfield before, and that standard has merit, but as the city grows to the west, shouldn't the section designations change with it? Just asking.

Reader: My 30-second Google search proved the Jan. 15 letter to the editor, "Tear down their walls," to be based on a false premise. Nancy Pelosi does not live in, nor does she own, a house in San Francisco surrounded by a very tall wall. I suspect the letter writer is referring to the widely shared photo of a huge white, walled mansion in S.F. that has been falsely linked to her  House Speaker Pelosi actually lives in a red brick house with no wall, so it's going to be difficult for her to do as the letter writer suggests and tear it down., and, three popular fact-checking websites, all have articles about Nancy Pelosi's unwalled home. Go to any one of those sites and enter the search terms "Pelosi," "house" and "wall."

Why doesn’t the Opinion page editor fact-check letters to the editor when some of them are so easy to do?

— Karen Goodrich

Price: We do fact-check letters, but clearly not always thoroughly enough. We should have caught this one.

Reader: Surprised to learn (in your response to Carl Bryan in the Dec. 21 Sound Off) that you were born in Ames, Iowa. I was born and raised in a small farm town north of there, met my wife at Iowa State University, and lived in Bakersfield from 1990 to 2016. I worked at the Bakersfield City, Delano and Standard school districts. Both of our kids were born in Ames (Mary Greeley Hospital), and went to Liberty and Stockdale high schools.

Here in Los Osos, I very much miss getting hard copies of TBC in my driveway every morning (for 26 years). Love the paper and especially Sound Off. Now get it electronically, but miss the newsprint.

— Bill Matthew

Price: Go Cyclones!

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.

(1) comment


What . . . ? "Stalked out . . . "? Oh yeah . . . that's "AP" for "concluded"--expanded (& confounded) upon by this 'local' excursion into 'news(papers)' that are "all wet", against 'the fence' . . . & submerged in 'Autocorrect' . . . as usual. Yawn . . .

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