Robert Price

Robert Price

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: Why not put more opinion articles in The Californian that are written by local folks rather than those paid writers who write on national issues and crowd out opinions written by us residents. Leave the Opinion page for people who at least live in the state and put those paid writers' articles where they should be: in the "Nation and World" section of the paper.

This is not just my opinion. Lots of folks have complained to me that the paper is full of articles from writers like Leonard Pitts and Froma Harrop. If you don't believe me, just count the measly number of local articles written by local writers in last week's Californian. You might find that your subscriptions to the Californian just might show remarkable improvement.

— Dennis Tope

Price: If we received more locally written opinion articles, we would print more locally written opinion articles — the coherent, locally relevant ones, anyway. 

They come to us in waves. We have occasional dry spells, such as the two or three days to which you refer, but most weeks we have more locally written commentaries than we can handle.

Our stock in trade is local content, but many readers like to read what the national pundits are saying about national and world events, the entertaining spectacle in Washington, and important social and cultural issues of the day. That's why we have columnists like Michael Gerson of the Washington Post and Rich Lowry of the National Review.

I note that the two columnists you cite are both liberals. If you were to ask folks of a different persuasion about our stable of columnists, I'm guessing you'd get an entirely different sort of response.

Putting national opinion columnists in the "Nation and World" section of the paper is exactly what we don't want to do. Readers have enough trouble discerning news stories from commentary without us jumbling them together.


Reader: In discussing The Californian's new story-labeling efforts in last week's Sound Off, Mr. Price uses the terms "straight news" or "straight unbiased portrayal of events" three or four times. However, "straight news" is not one of the labels you've decided to use along with "commentary," "review" and the others.

Now, I understand you can squabble over word interpretation, but how about having a classification where it is "straight news"? Apparently, such a thing exists, because Mr. Price used it several times. Instead of using the classification system of the Washington Post, a very liberal organization, why not use you own and include one that says "straight news"? That's what people would like to see, I believe. 

— Glenn Wood

Price: Editors discussed that very option — briefly. We settled on the idea that anything that does not have a label such as "analysis" or "perspective" is, by default, "straight news," or news that does not include the writer's point of view. Think of the absence of a label as the "straight news" label you're suggesting.

I don't know how The Post's political leanings have anything to do with generic labels. An "analysis" can lean either way.


Reader: I'm calling about the opinion article that Dana Milbank wrote about Rex Tillerson ("Donald Trump’s dog just can’t seem to get it right," Oct. 5). I've been in Bakersfield since 1949, and of all the years that I've had the newspaper, this is the most disgusting, unprofessional column I've read. Milbank totally needs to apologize to Rex. 

I was the editor of the Arvin High School Fairfax, of the Bakersfield Renegade Rip, and I was an editor at San Jose State. I do not believe that in all of my education under journalism does it say that it is OK to basically call a dignified, professional person a dog when he is up there doing the best he can in a really, really bad environment.

The Bakersfield Californian should never print another one of his articles. I don't care how good he is or how bad it gets, I don't think he deserves another chance to spread the sarcastic words on paper like he did in that article.

I also feel the same way about everything that is written about President Trump. The fact remains he is the President of the United States, and if for no other reason than that, we should show him the dignity and respect to that office. He was duly elected in a really really bad time in our history. President Trump has completed more and accomplished more for as long as he has been in office. 

— Gary Emma

Price: Milbank went too far with this one, and yours was not the only complaint. His attempt to reduce that particular White House sideshow to a "Dick and Jane"-style children's reader fell flat.

But I understand what Milbank was getting at: Trump has continually undermined his Secretary of State, repeatedly criticizing or contradicting his statements — statements that are supposed to carry the weight of U.S. foreign policy. By reducing Tillerson to an Oval office mascot and portraying Trump as an impetuous dog owner, Milbank, in my opinion, was saying it's Trump who is being disrespectful of a dignified, professional person. Whether you agree with that view or not, or disliked this particular attempt at satire, I hope you'll agree that taking a position on the sometimes-conflicting messages coming from Trump and Tillerson is a newspaper columnist's prerogative. Milbank is not the only pundit to have said so — and Tillerson might even agree, if you believe he actually called Trump a "moron," as has been reported and unconvincingly denied.

But, as to your central point: Yes. Swing and a miss, Mr. Milbank.


Reader: I loved the article by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Dom Giordano in your Opinion section ("Dr. Seuss under fire from politically correct mob," Oct. 14)!

Poor Dr.Seuss has now come under attack – how dare they! Quoting Mr. Giordano, “Of course, Dr. Seuss is not safe and protected. He is the latest icon under fire from the politically correct hordes that wake up every day trying to be offended.” Priceless!

Shame on the individuals in high places who have caved in to the protesters. Dr. Seuss will always be a hero in my book. I especially like what he wrote about “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Truer words have never been spoken.

It’s also a truism that if the beloved Dr. Seuss can be maligned, who is safe? Something to think about.

— Rita Loken

Price: It's ironic that a man so dedicated to empowering children by holding up values like kindness, empathy, ambition and confidence should become politically incorrect for an isolated portrayal that, to current sensibilities, may offend.


Reader: My wife and I appreciated Valerie Schultz's Oct. 4 column, "The real toll of 'sticks and stones.'" She said it with kindness and with accuracy.

— Chuck Doremus

Price: Agreed. One of her best. But then I often find myself saying that about Valerie Schultz.

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(1) comment


This current Pres. Trump vs. Sec. Tillerson side show so many of you are occupied with and taking apart piece by piece, day by day shows that you have little understanding of what is really going on. This is Tillerson's strategy to increase the power of his diplomacy. He has far greater leverage at the negotiating table when his boss, Pres. Trump is wielding a big stick and threatening to use it. Similar to Pres. Kennedy and the Cuba blockade and his threat to invade Cuba. Big sticks support winning diplomacy. So let the liberal headlines tout the riff between Trump and Tillerson and create more pressure on the "Little Rocket Man".

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