This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian’s news coverage. Your questions may be edited for space and clarity.
Reader: I read in your 10 Things You Need To Know in the Nov. 16 edition about retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer introducing a bill that would end the Electoral College.
Well, that’s not going to happen, but for argument's sake, let’s just say it was in play this year. Currently, in the popular vote, Hillary Clinton leads Donald J. Trump by roughly 630,000 votes with about 7 million yet to be counted. Assuming the same percentage follows, Clinton will win the popular vote by around 640,000.
However, it is estimated that 3 million illegal immigrants (OK, let’s be politically correct so no one is offended and call them people who do not have the right to vote) cast ballots in this election. Assuming only two-thirds voted for Clinton (it’s estimated that the figure realistically would be more like 90 percent), that’s 2 million less for Clinton and a million less for Trump. You can do your own math, but Trump wins by close to 1.5 million votes!
So, before Boxer introduces a bill to change the system, we need to be 100 percent sure that the ballots of people who do not have the right to vote are not counted. Come to think of it, perhaps we should make sure convicted felons, dead people and those who voted more than once are also excluded from the tally.
— Robert Gautney
Price: Perhaps you read about BuzzFeed's recent analysis concluding that fake news stories about the election generated more engagement on Facebook than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.
Well, the fake news blitz continues, and this one is a prime example.
The illegal-immigrant voting story apparently started with InfoWars, a conspiracy website run by Alex Jones. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning project of the Tampa Bay Times, says the article had been shared via Facebook more than 48,000 times when it last looked. Other websites have since picked it up.
PolitFact's researchers traced the story back to a couple of tweets — yes, tweets — and the person who authored them, a Gregg Phillips, wouldn’t say how he came up with his information.
"If that isn’t reason enough to be skeptical," writes PolitiFact, "independent experts and historical analyses suggest it’s highly suspect. In other words, don’t buy it."
PolitiFact went on to trace a history of similar claims that is filled with assumption, misunderstanding and incomplete information. For the complete report, go to www.politifact.com/punditfact and you'll see the article near the top. Long story short, PolitiFact rates the story false.
This whole phenomenon is troubling. It's so incredibly easy to research the validity of news stories, fake and not. It really just comes down to laziness, because in this age of Google it's fast and easy (and, dare I say, even fun) to check out this stuff.
But start with this: Google the story "How to Spot Fake News," written by the people at FactCheck.org, another excellent fact-verification organization. The article is a worthwhile read, but here are the bullet points:
• Read beyond the headline. If a provocative headline drew your attention, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information.
• Check the author: Another tell-tale sign of a fake story is often the byline. Google the author's name and read his credentials. Takes no time at all.
• Check the date. Some false stories aren’t completely fake, but rather distortions of real events, some that might have happened long ago.
• What’s the support? Many times these bogus stories will cite official — or official-sounding — sources, but once you look into it, the source doesn’t back up the claim.
FactCheck.og cites the example of a graphic "purporting to show crime statistics on the percentage of whites killed by blacks and other murder statistics by race. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump retweeted it, telling Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly that it came 'from sources that are very credible.' But almost every figure in the image was wrong — FBI crime data is publicly available — and the supposed source given for the data, 'Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco,' doesn’t exist."
By the way, the most recent numbers have Clinton ahead in the popular vote with more than 63 million votes to Trump's 61.6 million, a margin of 1.43 million. They're still counting.
Reader: We have subscribed to The Californian for 70 years and if it were not for the comics and the puzzles we would stop today as you have become a spokesperson for the Democrat party. I would like to put this in stronger terms, however I am too nice of a person, unlike your liberal paper.
— Dr. Melvin Cochran
Price: If that's the case, Dr. Cochran, I'm one lousy spokesperson. I just Googled "Bakersfield Californian" and "Hillary" and "Benghazi" and got more than 3,000 hits. I replaced "Benghazi" with "email server" and got nearly 600 more. It's been a tough year for the DNC already, what with Debbie Wasserman Schultz having resigned in disgrace and her interim replacement, Donna Brazile, possibly following her out the door. The DNC sure doesn't need a spokesperson whose newspaper keeps bringing up its standard-bearer's ultimately fatal missteps.
Reader: I was reading Robert Price's response to the man who didn't like his coverage of the presidential race on election night. His response seemed sort of silly because he didn't do his job as editor, or else he would have had some kind of story in the paper. Of course he is a bleeding liberal in a Republican county, which means he could at least be fair.
I stopped reading the paper after 30 years, but I did read it today (Nov. 12). And I encourage people to not take his paper if they don't agree with him.
— Don Hunt
Price: Don, I'm trying to piece this together. You don't normally read the paper, but last week's Sound Off was an exception? I assume that means you missed our election night coverage, which was the subject of the exchange you're referencing.
We did have "some kind of story in the paper" about the presidential election. A big one. It just so happened our deadline arrived before Clinton conceded and Trump declared victory, so it wasn't a definitive "Trump wins!" but our coverage made it clear Trump was cruising to a shocking victory. Many papers had to do the same sort of thing.
I encourage you to not criticize things you apparently haven't bothered to investigate.
Reader: Yesterday your air quality figure was 157 for greater Bakersfield for all. But from Quailwood I picked up my Californian at 7 a.m. and looking east the mountains were crystal clear. Then all day, even after the cars on Highway 99 sent out a cloud of haze, the mountains to the east were quite clear. And yet there was no burning or fireplaces. As a homeowner, a World War II veteran and a 25-year subscriber of The Californian, I expect more than that.
— James A. Kurfess
Price: I can't tell whom you're blaming. We get those air quality forecast figures from the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District. We don't invent them here at The Californian. Just a guess, and this is counterintuitive, but perhaps our skies can appear clear and still qualify as unhealthy. That's a question for the air district.
I'm told these no-burn days have made a hugely positive impact on our air since the program began 13 years ago.
Reader: Danny Morrison is one good reason why The Californian has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp. His column is absolute bilge. Who wants to pay money monthly to read this crapola? Just because Mr. Morrison is electorally challenged doesn't mean he deserves "victim status." Is this really the best this newspaper can dredge up for comment and commentary?
— Gary Johns
Price: I'm sorry you don't agree with some of the opinions expressed in The Californian. Have you found some opinions you agree with? There, we've just defined one of the most important roles of a general-interest local newspaper.
I give Danny a lot of credit for having the courage to express opinions he must surely know will be unpopular, but I don't give him credit for the shrinking of the American newspaper. I believe a few other factors have been at work.
Robert Price and The Californian welcome your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voice-mail message or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won’t be published.