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'm getting really tired of these ridiculous, liberal one-sided cartoons that you guys put in the paper. This last one (published Aug. 26) is so distasteful and ridiculous, showing a Navy ship crashing into the U.S. Naval Academy.
I mean, U.S. (sailors) died in that thing (east of Singapore). They did more than these liberal whiny ass protesters do. (Sailors) die and you put a cartoon here? I mean, you need to have a little class and a little respect for the soldiers and the American people who are trying. Not all these whiny idiots who live off the system and get handed everything, and get their loans free, and burn cop cars and break windows, and hurt people but have the right to be racist. It's just getting out of control now.
— Jeffery Carr
Price: Omaha World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba depicted a naval ship hitting the U.S. Naval Academy, just days after the destroyer ship the USS John S. McCain crashed into an oil tanker in an accident that killed 10 U.S. sailors. It was the fourth U.S. navy warship accident in Asia this year.
To me, the cartoon asks the Navy, "OK, does this have your attention now?" I thought of what Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told reporters after the disaster: the series of accidents in the Pacific “demands more-forceful action,” and he sees “great cause for concern that there is something we are not getting at.” He told Navy fleets across the world to review their procedures and ordered a separate investigation into how the Navy prepares its forces to operate in the Pacific.
So, yes, the Navy has turned its full, undivided attention to this matter. Seems to me the Navy might have done so after the second or third accident.
I can see how you might view the cartoon as disrespectful or "too soon," but I'm not sure what exactly makes it, as you say, liberal. Attention to military readiness and sensitivity to tragedy don't strike me as issues you can plot on the liberal-to-conservative spectrum.
As for Koterba, who's been at this for 28 years: "I drew the cartoon because I’m on the side with the kids,” Koterba tweeted. “So that no sailor should have to die in an accident.” Koterba added, “It’s my job to shine a light on problems so they don’t persist. The cartoon comes from a place of compassion.”
A few readers tweeted about their anger over the cartoon and, in a column published Aug. 24, Koterba told readers he wanted “to offer my sincere and heartfelt apology.”
Google Jeff Koterba's work. He strikes me as a guy with a heart.
Price: Political cartoons tend to stir up more outrage than anything else in the newspaper. Cartoonists don't have much room for nuance and they don't include commentary explaining what they're trying to say, and that often causes problems for editors. That was very much in evidence in our Aug. 26 edition, which included the four cartoons of our weekly Drawn & Quartered feature: In addition to Koterba's cartoon addressing the Navy's present crisis, we published a cartoon by Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake City Tribune depicting a woman clutching a Bible and saying, "White Christians are so persecuted, we're constantly haunted by the sound of jackboots!" In the next frame a nerdy kid with a torch and a swastika armband has appeared. "Oh, it's you son! How was the Trump rally?" That stirred the pot considerably, too.
Reader: So, is there any smidgeon of truth in this cartoon? Or is it just a hate-filled slur on Christians? Where are the news reports of Christians supporting Nazi thugs? Nowhere. Is this the editorial position of The Californian? This cartoon is a pack of lies.
— Derrill Whitten
Reader: I realize everyone has a right to free speech but sometimes good common sense should apply. I am referring to the political cartoon in Saturday's paper that shows a white Christian mother greeting her KKK, neo-Nazi, white supremacist son.
I am a white Christian mother and neither I nor any other Christian I know supports hate groups. This cartoon deeply offends me and others. Why print something that is going to add unnecessary fuel to an already brewing pot? Sometimes these things put ideas into the heads of ignorant people.
Quite frankly, I thought better of The Californian.
— Vivia Hobbs
Price: A lot of Salt Lake City Tribune readers agreed with you both. When I last checked, that cartoon, posted on Bagley's webpage, had 331 comments, many echoing your outrage. So, what is this cartoonist trying to say?
Joshua Dubois, writing for the Daily Beast on Aug. 12, expressed what I think Bagley might have been getting at:
"What is not clear is the position of many Christian leaders, especially in the white, and even some in the Latino, Evangelical church.
"Deafening silence from the pulpits in Orange County. Telling quiet from the mega-churches in Atlanta. Nashville, muted. The folks at Liberty University — the president and his activist friends — on the careful moral sidelines of this fight. Wheaton and Manhattan and Chicago and more, tentative and couched. Perhaps they'll echo Trump's ambiguous condemnation. Perhaps we'll hear nothing at all.
"These evangelical pastors and Christian activists, authors, and leaders are fearful. They are fearful of sanction from congregations where people in the pews may have voted for a morally problematic candidate because they did not like the alternatives."
I would add this, for the benefit of these two readers and others with the same concerns: One, Bagley wasn't condemning all Christians for the hypocrisy he apparently perceives in broader American Christendom. And, yes, as a pastor's kid, I can confirm there's plenty of hypocrisy in the pews, as my very devout mom and dad — a retired U.S. Navy chaplain — will sadly confirm. Two, no, this does not represent the editorial position of The Californian. This represents Bagley's position. His is one of many viewpoints, frequently conflicting, that we publish every day. Because that's one of the most important things we do here: Inspire and facilitate debate.
Price: I erred last week when I heaped all the praise for our outstanding retrospective on the 1952 earthquakes on my distinguished colleague, Christine Bedell. I should have dolloped an equal amount on one of my other distinguished colleagues (I have several), Steven Mayer, who did the writing and reporting. Christine edited the package and managed all of the reader submissions. Sorry, Steve.
Reader: While it’s common for a newspaper to write about the accomplishments of retiring leaders, I wonder about the extent to which doing so gives unfair credit ("Our View: Horace Mitchell will leave CSUB a markedly better place," Aug. 27). For example, with “natural” growth of a university, new buildings are likely to be built. Should an administrator get credit for that just because they happen during his term?
When we start looking under the surface, most “accomplishments” of an administrator can be questioned. Maybe we should be gracious. But maybe we should also acknowledge other perspectives. Otherwise, the paper becomes part of the public relations arm of the entities it covers.
— Bruce D. Hartsell
Price: I have no doubt that Dr. Mitchell would agree with much that you say. But it's also true that enlightened leadership filters down into the entire organization, spreading confidence and sense of purpose; the reverse is true too.
You're right: Many of these achievements would have taken place with or without the university's retiring president, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't congratulate him for having steered all of those things toward fruition.
Reader: Maybe this has been said before. Why is it necessary for the high school sports page to be all BHS, Liberty, Garces, Ridgeview? There are other schools. As a BHS graduate I understand that they are the big dog, but I just watched Golden Valley win a game 55-0. They were given much more ink than usual but I do believe the massive amount of words and numerous pictures of the same teams is not right. At least a small picture from other winning teams of the night. These kids all work their you know whats off and for most, this will be their highest level of athletic competition. An occasional acknowledgement of their hard work seems reasonable.
Seems to me that more people would read the paper if their kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors, local teams were mentioned in more than a score line.
— Mike Ladd
Price: I asked Sport Editor Zach Ewing about your comments. His response: "I appreciate the sentiment, but obviously we have to plan out coverage in advance of knowing the result of each game. With a limited number of photographers available (and limited space in the newspaper), we chose to cover games between what we know to be some of the section's best teams. That's nothing against Golden Valley or any other school — and we will be sure to feature those teams as the season goes on, especially if they're successful — but planning ahead and choosing the 'biggest' games of the week is necessary to get a newspaper to you by Saturday morning."
Reader: I have a feeling that you will consider this a small thing. And you would be right. And wrong.
"Dickensonian" in the headline above one of the Aug. 30 letters ("A Dickensonian comparison") threw me. It refers to Charles Dickens, not Dickenson. I get Dickensian. To me, it seems that all of the little things add up to a lot of disrespect for the rest of the superb work being done.
— Larry Dunn
Price: I could try to weasel out of this by pointing in the direction of Emily Dickinson, but that would be pathetic. Guilty.
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