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 — which may be edited for space — are answered here each Saturday by The Californian’s Robert Price.
Reader: I am so glad you have decided to dispense with the USA Today portion of the newspaper ("To our readers: Farewell to USA Today," June 16)! When it is left in my hotel lobby or slid under the door of the room, I don’t even bother with it. So it will be nice to have it really gone. Your staff can do much better.
— Kaye LeFebvre
Reader: I wish I had spoken up sooner to tell you how much I love The Californian and the addition of USA Today. I look forward to the top 5 downloaded songs, 5 best-seller books, etc., and thoroughly enjoy the section on books and best-sellers on Sunday. Hopefully you can incorporate some of those things from your other news feed options. Thanks for continuing to publish an awesome paper that I enjoy reading every day!
— Janice Drillingham
Reader: Thank you for dropping this totally biased product. Whether or not their politics are in line with your readers, there is no place in objective journalism for agenda-driven reporting posing as news.
Please don't copy their style in your new format.
— Bill Bartling
Reader: I recall some writer describing USA Today many years ago as being "news light," and so it was. USA Today was OK, but I rarely found much to read in it.
Your coverage of local news is superb, your California coverage is OK, and maybe concentrating on those areas is the way to go for your newspaper. We do get lots of national and international news on the cable news channels these days anyway.
So, keep up the good work, and I won't miss USA Today.
— Charles Timberlake
Reader: Kudos for your decision! Your team has always done a great job presenting the news and always will. From a subscriber for more than 50 years.
— Enebo Joyce
Reader: Yay! Now I don't have to skip through pages.
— Melody Batelaan
Price: We asked for your feedback on our decision to drop USA Today as our prepackaged provider of national and world news, effective with today's edition, and you didn't let us down.
We're gratified to learn that readers overwhelmingly support our call. We'll try to duplicate some of the more useful aspects of the USA Today package, but readers' primary takeaway from this change should be that we're now free to pump up our local and state coverage.
One reader wrote in to suggest that perhaps this was purely a money-driven decision. I can honestly tell you that it wasn't. Sure, there's a bottom-line bump, but we'll end up spending to fortify ourselves elsewhere.
As we have already noted, we listened to readers in coming to this decision, and we'll continue to listen. Let us know how we're doing.
Reader: I have been a subscriber to The Bakersfield Californian since we moved here in 1997, and enjoy reading the paper each day. I especially enjoy your Sound Off column each Saturday, so I hope you respond to this.
I have been a teacher at Foothill High School for 20 years now, and am very upset with the headline in your June 15 paper concerning the “Foothill teacher accused of sexual remarks in classroom.” This is a very misleading, and inaccurate, headline.
Although the article details that it was a substitute teacher who made the remarks, it’s the headline I have the issue with … he was not, and is not, a Foothill teacher. Foothill, as all KHSD schools do, gets their substitute teachers from a pool hired by the Kern High School District. The headline should have said “KHSD substitute teacher ..." A lot of readers just read the headlines until they find something that catches their eye, but if they did not read the article, they are going to think that a Foothill teacher made sexual remarks in class. Most of us who are Foothill teachers couldn’t pick this guy out of a lineup, and I had never seen his name until it showed up in the article. A lot of us in the Foothill community are upset.
— Mike Biezad
Price: Mike, you are 100 percent correct. The headline writer was trying to reference the fact that the sub made the inappropriate comments to Foothill students, but the result was misleading. Our apologies.
Reader: Sorry, Mr. Price, but the large "TRUMP LIED" headline of your June 9 paper was totally out of line. President Trump expressed publicly that the FBI wasn't properly managed. That's an opinion. For former FBI Director James Comey to call that assessment a lie shows just how off base the former director is. Any sane person would have said, "I respectfully disagree with the president's assessment." Instead he called the president a liar.
In huge type you put on your front page the fact that our president is a liar. Front page fonts are supposed to represent the truth. Yours was an opinion of a fired FBI director. Yes, in small type above was the disclaimer, but that still doesn't cut it.
— Jeff Humphreys
Price: Jeff, the smaller type was part of the headline. It wasn't a disclaimer, it was the requisite attribution. That's what Comey said and we factually reported that's what he said. You say Comey was off base? Maybe he was. But that's what the former director of the FBI said under oath. Withholding the central takeaway of his explosive and unprecedented testimony because our editors might choose not to believe him would be journalistic malpractice. We report what he said; you decide how to process it.
Front pages are indeed supposed to represent the truth. Comey used that word five times and it should have been abundantly clear that we were quoting him, not rendering our own judgment.
What I've gathered over the past eight days (I can be a slow learner) is that the critics were not so much offended by the words "TRUMP LIED" — although they're clearly displeased by that — as they were with the huge, black, all-caps type we used to present them. It grabbed readers, no doubt about that. Chalk up the decision to present the story in such bold fashion to two things: One, never before has an FBI director or government official of remotely similar stature ever directed such a charge at the president of the United States, and two, our weekday page format, while comfortable to read, limits our news presentation options, graphically speaking. For example, The Salt Lake City Tribune, whose front page headline, "'Lies, plain and simple,'" which I cited last week, had enough additional room on its traditional, full-sized page to include stories that muted the shock: For one, a story on Comey's admission that he had leaked information to the press.
The 13-1/2-inch-tall pages on which we print our Monday through Friday editions demand a more magazine-like approach, and that can sometimes result in less subtle presentations. Had Comey testified on a Friday, our full-sized Saturday presentation would have given the story a different feel. But it still would have focused on Comey's highly charged statements about the president.
Reader: I've been reading The Californian since moving to Bakersfield in 1990, and I love it, especially Sound Off. The constant accusations that TBC is "liberal" are comical. Any centrist in Kern County would be seen as liberal by the majority of the population and TBC is no exception. Liberal? Hardly. It's balanced. But I still haven't forgiven TBC for dropping Doonesbury during the Bush administration due to readership pressure. Keep up the good work.
— Bill Matthew
Price: Through all the years I've been here we have always referred to our editorial stance as "raging moderate." That hasn't always played well in a county that, by several objective measures, is the most reliably conservative in California. And it's been my experience that local conservatives are more vocal and more strident than local liberals about expressing it. In an environment like that, moderate voices can come off seeming like they speak from the left.
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