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SOUND OFF: Why we ‘rely’ on ‘out-of-town’ reporters


A United Express passenger jet refuels at Meadows Field Airport.

Reader: It's a shame that true nonpartisan and independent news is a thing of the past. This article about suicides and isolation cells at the Kern County jail ("A sane and innocent woman went on suicide watch at Kern County jail. It nearly broke her," posted online Nov. 5) was clearly produced as the result of an organizational agenda and is an example of why we now find ourselves with an abundance of "fake news."

Another sad note about this story is that The Californian is relying on out-of-town (Sacramento Bee and ProPublica) entities to report on an apparent local issue. Is this due to the recent ownership change and related staffing reductions by chance?

— Awol

Price: You'll have to explain to me, Awol, what part of this article, researched and written over a period of about 10 months, strikes you as partisan. And partisan on which side? Statistics are statistics and deaths are deaths. This is the kind of reporting that prompts governments and other institutions to reexamine the way they do things. Watchdogging happens to be one of journalism's highest callings.

You'll also have to explain to me the problem with nonlocal journalists reporting on local issues. We use wire services like The Associated Press and neighbors like The Fresno Bee regularly for stories of local and regional significance, and they call upon us; virtually all general-audience media outlets rely on partners. It's nothing new.

That approach will only become more important going forward. Newspapers' business models are changing because readers are consuming news in different ways, and they often expect it for free. Advertisers have more options, leaving newspapers with smaller slices of the pie. That has translated to smaller staffs and smaller newspapers, and fewer media companies can afford to devote increasingly limited resources to ambitious projects like this one. The Sacramento Bee is feeling it, too, which is why its editors have worked out partnerships with foundations and other nonprofit organizations like ProPublica. The Californian has benefited from similar collaborations.

I love how you try to assign some dark purpose to this sort of arrangement. Get used to it.

Reader: As usual, the article (on the Kern County jail) has been edited since it was first published. More info has now been added to it. The newspaper does this frequently when people point out their errors.

— All Star

Price: Er, no it hasn't. One of the conditions we accepted when The Sacramento Bee and ProPublica allowed us to publish this article (look for it in this Sunday's Californian, print subscribers) was that we not touch a word of it: No changes, no trimming of its lengthy content.

That said, of course we correct errors in online content, whether pointed out by editors, subjects, sources or readers. That's one of the beauties of digital journalism. When we discover mistakes, we correct them. Half of today's Sound Off is devoted to owning up to our errors, both mine and others'. We are humans — humans working on tight deadlines.


Reader: Hey, Bob, a minor quibble, but since I’ve noticed it twice in the past couple-three weeks, most recently last Sunday ("Electric car lovers are among us, right here in oil city," Nov. 3), I wanted to alert you: We can get four-plus Delawares into Kern County — 1,982 square miles of land Delaware) vs. 8,163 square miles (Kern County). We are essentially a New Jersey-sized (8,722 square miles) county. If it’s population you’re referring to, then yes, Delaware it is. My sense is, though, when referring to size most people think mass.

— Mike Stepanovich

Price: You're right, Mike. I must have locked "Delaware-sized" into my brain when I was making a population comparison and kept using it for geographic size comparisons. Delaware is slightly larger in terms of people (967,171 in 2018) than Kern County (896,764 in 2018) but a quarter our size when it comes to area. It takes all of 20 minutes to drive all the way across Delaware, east to west, at its narrowest spot and less than two hours north to south. And yet Delaware gets two U.S. senators to Kern County's one-29th of one senator, to use California's number of counties (58) for a comparison.


Reader: Usually it’s columnists like Rich Lowry or Leonard Pitts who send me to the dictionary to look stuff up. This past Sunday ("Electric car lovers are among us, right here in oil city," Nov. 3) you managed it, Robert. I had to look up “colocation.”

My ancient fifth-edition Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary didn’t even have the word but M-W online did. Whew!

This past week, the Sierra Club met with the developers of a gas station project at Highway 184 and Morning Drive with the developer to advocate the inclusion of an EV charging station at that facility.

— Stephen A. Montgomery

Price: Have you ever known, deep down, that something you were doing was horribly wrong and that you should stop immediately? That's how I felt when I typed "colocation." That's bureaucrat-speak of the lowest order. And still I let it go. The words I was looking for to describe the practice of installing electric vehicle super-chargers at the same fueling stations as gasoline pumps were "near each other." Thanks for calling me out on it. 

Reader: The one thing the story didn't mention was, how long does it take these electric cars to charge at a super-charging station?

— Richard Nuckles

Price: Charging speed depends on battery size, power of the charging station and the car's acceptance rate, so it can vary widely. A one-hour charge at 110 volts gives a Chevy Bolt enough power to travel 24 miles. A Tesla can fully charge at a 480-volt super-charging station in anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how low the battery is when you plug in. A fully charged Tesla is good for 370 nonstop miles. Tesla, and all EV makers, are constantly working on improving range. 


Reader: I appreciate the difficulties of the jobs reporters do, as a former daily newspaper reporter myself. But I must write to express my frustrations at the continued errors regarding my employer, Calcot Ltd., our business status and other misinformation that keeps making its way into the pages of The Californian.

We were founded in 1927 as a cooperative (a business entity, much like a corporation) under the 1922 Capper-Volstead Act. This legislation permitted farmers to form and create their own marketing associations, and among the more notable cooperative businesses in the U.S. are familiar names, such as Blue Diamond, Sun Maid, Sunkist, Tillamook dairy products, Ocean Spray, Welch’s, Borden’s dairy products, Nationwide Insurance, True Value and Ace Hardware stores, and other types of cooperatives, such as credit unions (Kern County’s largest financial institution, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, is a co-op), the outdoor retailer REI is a cooperative, and there’s even one in the news business, a small outfit known as The Associated Press.

Your Nov. 8 story ("Future of planned Bakersfield homeless shelter uncertain following City Council meeting") refers to us as a "collaborative." I am unaware of what a collaborative is, other than an adjective, but Calcot Ltd. is not a collaborative: we are a cooperative. Ironically October each year is National Cooperative Month, and the theme this year is “By the Community, For the Community.” You can learn more about cooperatives at the National Cooperative Business Association website, (Yes, cooperatives even have their own domain type — .coop)

As I say, we have been in business since 1927, and in our current location since 1947. The office building at 1900 E. Brundage Lane is still our headquarters. We have not sold it (as reported by Robert Price), the building is not vacant (as reported by Sam Morgen), and the tense of "served" in the report published Nov. 8 is inaccurate. The building serves as our headquarters and will until something changes. Ironically, I’m typing this email from my office, which is certainly not vacant, deserted nor abandoned, and there are nearly two dozen people working in this building. Just north of our building are over three dozen warehouses, where cotton bales are stored. We are currently receiving the 2019 crop produced by nearly a thousand members who farm in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and shipments of their production bound for domestic and overseas customers go out nearly every day of the week.

Our annual revenue is in the neighborhood of $200 million and we handle, store, sell and ship nearly a half million bales of cotton each year. Though we’ll be 93 years old in February, we’re still going strong. You can learn more about us and our history at

I do hope going forward the status of our business and our operations can be accurately reported. Thanks for allowing me this opportunity.

— Mark Bagby

Price: I have never been chastised so politely or more deservedly. The terms of the proposed sale of Calcot's now-extraneous 70,000-square-foot warehouse to the city of Bakersfield for use as an emergency shelter for homeless have been agreed upon and a letter of intent is in place, but the City Council declined to give the transaction its final approval this week. So, no, the warehouse has not been sold. My apologies, and thank you for clarification on the business-context meaning of "cooperative."

Mark reports that local media has generally done a poor job of getting this story right, and The Californian has been among the better ones. One TV station, he said, reported that the warehouse had been sold for $4 billion. Yikes! That's some warehouse. (The proposed price was $3.83 million.)


Reader: Valerie Schultz wrote a beautiful column in Sunday's paper ("Schadenfreude," Nov. 3) about President Trump speech following news of the killing of ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Her words mirror the thoughts of the many of us who have difficulty expressing our thoughts in a civil manner, as she did so eloquently. Her column deserves a national readership; it is, in my opinion, equal to or better than the writing of national pundits on the subject. I intend to forward it to some of my out-of-town friends.

— Joe Traynor

Price: Many, I'm sure, were pleased to hear Trump characterize al-Baghdadi as having died "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way ... as a coward" — even though military leaders were mystified as to how he could have known one way or another, since the visual Trump watched from the situation room had no audio. Valerie, however, was troubled by the tenor and content of the president's address, and she stated her case eloquently. Al-Baghdadi was a reprehensible human being and the world is better without him, but I found the president's gratuitous remarks distasteful as well.


Reader: On Nov. 1, I sent a message to Steven Mayer saying the caption to the photo that accompanied his story about blowing dust in Bakersfield actually showed an intersection in Shafter. In Sunday's paper, the caption for the photo that accompanied Dianne Hardisty's article about Meadows Field refers to an "American Airlines passenger jet." However, the lettering on the jet says "United Express."

I know writers do not have control of the captions that accompany photos in their stories, as I had the same caption run for two photos in a KBJ article I wrote once. It happens. It reminds me of the old TBC slogan, "We read you." I am! (smile)

— David Lyman

Price: If dust was blowing in Bakersfield, you can be sure it was blowing in Shafter, too. But your point is well taken.

You are also correct about the photo of the United Express passenger jet. Making matters worse, it's a file photo we have published several times. "United Express" is not easily readable at the highly skewed angle of the photo, but that's another lame excuse.

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 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at Please include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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