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: Robert, who at TBC decides which letters to publish in the letters to the editor section? I realize that letters are the opinion of the person submitting them. I have no problem with that. But don’t you think TBC has an obligation to not publish letters that are so out of touch with reality?
A letter was published in the Dec. 16 newspaper regarding the shooting of Francisco Serna by a BPD officer. The writer suggested the officer should have only fired two shots. One shot to the left shoulder, and one shot to the right shoulder. The writer said this would have caused Sr. Serna to be unable to pull out a weapon.
Robert, you have been in this newspaper business long enough to know that officers are not trained to shoot suspects in the shoulder, shoot the gun out of their hand, or shoot them in the leg.
I question TBC’s intent to publish such a letter.
What say you?— Brad Roark
Price: We’ve been hearing that question more and more frequently: “Why must police shoot to kill?” It’s not like this letter writer pulled it out of thin air.
Elected officials have occasionally asked the same question over the years.
A New York state senator introduced legislation in 2006 that would have required officers to try to shoot offenders’ limbs instead of targeting locations that would more likely result in death. Law enforcement officials protested and he withdrew the bill. In 2010, two other legislators, also from New York, introduced a “minimum force” bill that would have required officers to “shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg” and to use firearms “with the intent to stop, rather than kill.”
When the bill was described to Vice President Joe Biden, he was said to have scoffed and suggested it be called the “John Wayne Bill” because of the unrealistic, Hollywood-like shooting skills it would have required of officers. The bill went nowhere.
My point is, as unrealistic as the letter writer’s opinion might seem, it’s a consideration people in positions of authority have actually weighed. Allowing people to suggest such possibilities in our Opinion section affords those like you, Brad, who understand how such a policy might actually play out, to educate.
We’re just trying to facilitate community conversation, because you never know. A workable policy that encourages greater use of less-lethal force in certain situations just might emerge.
Reader: As a longtime subscriber I’m wondering why The Californian no longer informs readers of the nationality of people arrested or convicted of serious crimes.— Jeff Warren
Price: If the law enforcement agencies that supply us with information about arrests include that detail, we report it. Unless they’re unnecessarily explicit or otherwise offensive, we don’t omit facts. We tell you what the police and the courts tell us.
Reader: Really. You publish Danny Morrison’s hatred-imbued, one-sided, racially biased opinions twice a week? His latest, on Dec. 22, hits a new note regarding health care. He wants to mandate the government to install grocery stores? He wants to mandate the government to guarantee health insurance/wages? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a brain-dead liberal suffering from mental disease.— Alan L. Booth
Price: You say Morrison’s columns are hatred-imbued but provide no evidence of it. Where, specifically, is this alleged hate? Seriously.
Morrison’s point about the lack of affordable, healthy food stores in minority neighborhoods is a legitimate one. Are you interested in fighting obesity and poor general health among those who live in low-income neighborhoods? You ought to be because your tax dollars are paying for the consequences.
I don’t recall Morrison suggesting the government “mandate” anything regarding grocery stores. Tax breaks are another matter. That’s how the Bakersfield City Council, led by then-councilwoman Irma Carson, encouraged a discount food chain to open several years ago at the corner of California and Union avenues. Today the neighborhood is immensely better for it.
Plenty of people agree that government should not require citizens to obtain health insurance, but you oppose a government minimum wage too? Whatever the case, those are reasonable issues for Americans to debate. Labeling someone “brain dead” because they disagree strikes me as brain dead.
Reader: Because very few journalists are Republicans (7 percent, according an Indiana University study) and liberal professors outnumber conservatives (12 to 1, according to a Washington Times study), the deck is majorly stacked against Republican candidates. Republicans now know this fact well. It appears mainstream media (your newspaper included) will continue to spin the truth even though their effort to get Hillary Clinton elected was a disaster. Seems counter-productive to me.
With your newspaper, it seems even more counter-productive. Trump wins big in Kern County (53 percent to 40 percent for Hillary), so why would you not cater your political journalism more to the majority of people that live and work here? With a 6 percent trust level of the media, are your liberalism and pride so deep-seated that you can’t modify your biased news to satisfy both sides?
— Randy Grigg
Price: I’m still waiting for you, or anyone, to describe specific elements of these allegedly biased stories that demonstrate actual bias. Even in this post-fact world, repeatedly calling something biased does not make it so. Donald Trump generated negative press, and significantly more of it than his opponents, because he said and did provocative and occasionally outrageous things that demanded media coverage. Pretty simple.
That’s not to say media weren’t without failures. We had plenty, starting with the growing tendency of many to wander into the world of marketing-driven celebrity “analysis.”
Randy, you ask why we don’t “cater” to the (conservative) majority of people who live and work in Bakersfield. You’ve just described why so few people trust the media. Polarized media outlets tell readers and viewers exactly what they want to hear — information that reaffirms what they choose to believe. As this trend has worsened, distrust of media has grown. How about if we cater to objectivity? We’re trying. Or at least I’m trying.
The Californian is a hyper-local paper that generates relatively little original national and international coverage. This column probably addresses that more than any other locally produced content in these pages. I’d say conservative voices are pretty well represented here. Even if I like to argue with them.
Reader: Thank you for Dave Barry’s gift suggestions in last Sunday’s paper. He is my favorite humorist (besides Sound Off). He wrote a classic book about Walter the Christmas Dog, etc., that reminded me of the young boys who hung around our house years ago. It’s worth a read. I laughed all the way through.
— Mary K. Shell
Price: I love Dave Barry, too. I’m still willing to swap jobs with him if he’s interested. I made that very offer to him when I met him backstage at the Bakersfield Business Conference in 1997. He smiled and backed away from me very slowly.
Reader: The woman in your Dec. 17 Sound Off who wrote that your column is the best thing in Saturday’s paper is correct. You do a terrific job with it. And I recognize how much work (and research) you put into it. Readers appreciate that. Thanks.
Reader: I enjoy your Sound Off column. You are the best at telling off Trumpsters. What sore winners. Always whine, whine.
— Leslie Eyraud
Price: I am an equal-opportunity teller-offer but have been hearing almost exclusively from Trump supporters lately. Please, someone else harass me.
Reader: I just want to tell you how pleased I was with the article you wrote about the construction of the Crystal Palace, and Buck’s help — chuckle (“It’s a Crystal clear legacy,” Dec. 18). It was superbly written and a joy to read. I am a Buck, Merle, George, Willie fan and I like to read about them. Thank you again for making my day so bright.
— Joan Sue Curtis
Price: The Crystal Palace is still the best thing this city has going for it, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to hang around it, and its characters, for so long. But even I didn’t know some of those stories until Mel Owens and his colleagues shared them with me for that article.