We've seen it happen a hundred times before.
A reporter from the Big City parachutes into Bakersfield — or doesn't bother to visit at all — and through stereotyping and broad-brush assumption, concludes this complex community is a cultural wasteland devoid of art, good restaurants and "civic entertainment."
It happened again when SFGate reporter Michelle Robertson wrote about a study that had described Bakersfield as one of the most popular markets for millennials.
Not only was Robertson's story topped by a photo of the desolate Kern River Oil Field — as if that image defines Bakersfield — Robertson included this snarky gem:
"If it's home ownership you seek, and are fine with your civic entertainment options consisting of air-conditioned movie theaters and shopping malls, Bakersfield might just be the millennial landing spot for you."
For some in Bakersfield, those turned out to be fighting words.
Miranda Whitworth, a Salt Lake City native who has lived in Bakersfield for years, fired off an email to Robertson.
"A few words of advice for you: it’s not Bakersfield’s fault you think it sucks," Whitworth wrote. "Bakersfield is actually a fine place to live, you just have to look past all of the haters from big cities writing editorials about our quality of life without as much as a Google search backing up their claims."
Whitworth wasn't done.
"The proverbial 'one horse town' trope updated to include 'movie theaters and shopping malls' is lazy, clichéd and inaccurate. As a millennial homeowner, who relocated to Bakersfield from a large and expensive metropolis, it took more than a low cost of living to get me to invest in the city."
She goes on to inform Robertson that there are "so many concerts, festivals, art shows, charity events, farmers markets, and street fairs going on every weekend it's maddening trying to decide what (if any of it) you want to do."
Jennifer Burger, a journalism professor at Cal State Bakersfield, was similarly incensed by Robertson's piece. While Burger gives Robertson some slack because the story was written in a column style, she said the story simply wasn't fair to Bakersfield.
"There's a reason I stayed here," said Burger, who lived in the Bay Area for five years before moving to Bakersfield.
Rather than writing Robertson directly, Burger turned to her blog, "Journeys with Jen."
"The most recent example of negative stereotyping by San Francisco media," Burger wrote, "was yesterday's news that Bakersfield has been ranked as one of the 'Top 10 Most Popular Markets for Millennials' by the National Association of Realtors. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Michelle Robertson, was shocked to see that young people might actually want to live somewhere affordable in California."
"Of all the photos they could have chosen to depict Bakersfield, they chose our Kern River Oil Fields. Seriously?"
There's much to love in Bakersfield, Burger argued on her blog, including its vibrant local theater scene, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, cafes and craft breweries.
One might also add its music scene.
"Our downtown is undergoing an amazing resurrection, most recently on 18th Street just east of Chester Avenue where Metro Galleries, Cafe Smitten, and Dot x Ott market have all recently opened. And just outside of Bakersfield, in our surrounding mountains, we have plentiful outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, camping, rafting, kayaking and more. The Pacific Crest Trail runs right through Kern."
But Burger also gave kudos to Robertson for responding to the letters and criticisms she received by writing a second story, published Tuesday.
"It's nice to see a reporter follow up on a story and hold herself accountable," Burger said of the Bay Area journalist.
In her follow-up, Robertson wrote, "Bakersfield simply hadn't been on my radar as a trendy spot where people of my generation are flocking. Yet, within hours of publishing, Bakersfieldians wrote me explaining ... why my attitude about their fair city was coastal elitism at its finest."
Reached by email, Robertson declined to comment except to say she will let her stories speak for themselves.
But Robertson did correspond with other Bakersfield residents.
Cybil Alexander, she wrote in her second story, lived in the Bay Area for 25 years. She moved with her husband and two children to Bakersfield earlier this year.
Alexander told Robertson she had had enough of the Bay Area's traffic — and astronomical rent and child care costs made it nearly impossible to save.
After the move to Bakersfield, she told Robertson during a phone call, the city had exceeded her expectations.
No one suggested to Robertson that Bakersfield is a modern-day Eden. The sprawl, the poor air quality, the summer heat are negatives, no question.
But the stereotypes don't truly capture the positives.
"Bakersfield has a negative connotation: oil country, bunch of hicks, nothing out here," Robertson quoted Alexander as saying. "Coming back and making the decision to move, (I've found) there's a ton of transplants, and the city is doing some beautiful work."
Now if we can only convince parachute-wearing reporters to do the same.