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.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(31) comments


Bakersfield reminds me a lot of Rock Springs, WY.


Two words: Shannon Grove


Who are they trying to fool? Bakersfield is a dump. I know because I used to live in that hellhole.


well people on the coast and big cities are nothing more than parasites, they take and don't give anything back...if not for the valley folks, they would just shrivel up and blow away just like the tulare dust...but they do complain a lot...


oh yeah one more thought after having to make several trips to frisco lately, i cannot believe all the trash along the roads up there and not to mention all the feces all over the place...nice place to live huh ??


The dirty air? Bakersfieldians can't use their fireplaces at will b e c a u s e those who live in SF and other areas to the north are able to use theirs; a n d their dirty air blows up against our southern mountains. THEIR dirty air becomes OUR air.

She Dee

For me, it's not what people say about Bakersfield that irks me as much as it is what people don't say about it! After moving away & experiencing clean air for the first time in my life, I now know that returning to Bakersfield (for me) will result in death. So, when I'm ready to die, I'll move back to good ole Bako!


Enjoy your sad smug life she dee. It must take a high level of bitterness (caused by who knows what) to post your oversimplified negativity about Bako. If you were so enamored with your clean air, you wouldn't be indoors typing away proclaiming your atmospheric superiority. Get out and have some fun! Bashing on Bako is so unoriginal it boggles the mind.

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

Hahahahahaha! Bako blows and all these idiots know it!

Gene Pool Chlorinator

So why do you live here then?

Boogerface Nutter

I now live on the coast in LA. When people ask me about living in Bako for so long, I tell them it's the best-kept secret in California. I loved living there and get back whenever I can...if only to take my daughter to Lengthwise for dinner and really good beer.

Stating the obvious

Ms. Robinson, YOU are the one who lives in a city so filthy that there is an app for human feces in the streets. I'll stay down here thanks.


I live a hour from Bakersfield. We go down there a few times. People are very friendly, air quality wasn't bad except one trip. Whom ever designed the roads was off of their rocker. Easy to get lost. Other than that, Bakersfield is really interesting. The people make that city. What city doesn't have crime, homeless? We do as well. Some of the homes are really nice. The older ones. Don't let the SF snobs get you down. They live is poo city. lol!!!


Lived here since 2005 and moved around a lot within bakersfield and can objectively say that only the cost of living here is what attractive about living here lol. The city is not good looking at all and makes the list of pretty terrible statistics in the state like STD rates driving fatalities etc. Millennails are only attracted to this rat hole over cheap homes. Only nice part of this place is the SouthWest and people like this article's writer likes to ignore the rest of he city and Oildale. The new businesses opening up downtown is like a failed attempt at gentrification. Lots of homeless roaming around downtown and the rate has been exploding lately in the city. Traffic has been a mess and they let the streets deteriorate so badly that they had no choice but to fix them all the same time. So now it's and bigger mess with construction everywhere with road projects that should have been done years ago. Don't get me started with how idiotic people here are with driving and you can look up driving fatalities statistics and bakersfield makes it pretty high on the list nationwide. So yeah if you focus only at the few pockets of Bakersfield that are actually pleasant and the lower cost of living you might convince yourself that this place is great, but the coastal elites do have a near infinite amount of reasons to snub this place lol.


I am one who feels everywhere can grow for the better. As a driver for Lyft I recently had the opportunity of driving to LA in the middle of the week. Never again! We are so blessed to live in Bakersfield. I was so ecstatic about returning home I stopped and kissed the ground. Born and raised in San Diego, I was so happy to be home, Bakersfield!!!




I have lived all over the place and in most regions of this great country. Boston, Denver, Cleveland, Houston, Vermont, SLC, Chicago, Australia, Jacksonville, Phoenix, upstate NY, etc. Every single place has its pros and cons. Bakersfield is no exception. I chose to move back here for the opportunities and central location that Bakersfield has to offer. Those that bash it are uninspired, lack creativity and maybe lack good friends. The weather and air quality here have been spectacular in recent months. Swim season is right around the corner. All that LA and the central coast have to offer are a short drive away. Try getting out on a bike ride on our great bike path. Head west on it today and you will see a lush verdant trail teeming with wildlife and friendly smiling folks. Finish it with a cold pint or three at lengthwise, eureka or wherever with friends. It ain't that hard folks.

Muhammad Fatwa al Jihad

Easier to ignore the provincial coastal twits

barbara meuleman-girga

I moved to Bkfd in 1970, went to Europe for ten years, married a European and WE decided to move back to Bakersfield. He loves the sunshine and I love the people. Those who condemn Bakersfield have only passed through or read reports. You only have to live here for a short time to find a community full of things to do, great places to eat, and people who will help you in any emergency. Of course we have the negatives of every other place, such as the homeless, but we need to put our heads together to eliminate the negative and work on the positive, not print only the negative things.Come and visit and enjoy a delicious Basque meal, and you will leave with a smile on your face. Our European family visits us yearly; we never go back because what we want we already have in Bakersfield.

Long time Bako town lady

Born in Visalia and lived the majority of my 63 years in the valley. Very mixed emotions about Bakersfield at this point in our lives. The air quality is horrid and our crime rate is making national headlines in a most negative manner. We believe our city is far behind so many others as to entertainment, restaurants and decent shopping causing us to leave town often seeking finer dining experiences, shopping and larger scale entertainment choices. Our community is outstanding as far as support, compassion and loyalty and is quick to assist those in need. Our neighborhoods are affordable as compared to other counties in northern and southern California but unfortunately most of the neighborhoods here lack the type of layout, planning, landscape, common areas and neatly maintained sidewalks and streets that many other cities have in this state. Bakersfield tends to lean towards acres of cement and asphalt versus vegetation and beautification. Downtown has struggled for many years and doesn't receive quality support which causes businesses to come and go. The more conservative atmosphere here in Bakersfield is troubling at times and does not lend to an open minded, accepting community where diversity can flourish. Feeling sad that the city we call home is not quite up to par is so many areas.


If you like unbreatheable air, arrogant Republicans, and Nazis who sell meth, and you HATE LGBT people, women's rights, immigrants, and people of color, Bakersfield is the All-American City for you.


Ok. You're a smart one. Typical lib - can only call people names instead of having a dialog. Whatever.

Muhammad Fatwa al Jihad

Not a typical liberal. An angry loudmouth.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Well said...I doubt he even lives here actually...

Patricia Edna

It seems to me you’re the negative, hateful person. Maybe you should move, sounds like we’d be better off

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Please just go away and quit throwing "NAZI" around so much, you continue to astound me with your absolute ignorance...

Boogerface Nutter

I came to Bako in '83. It was much worse back then. Thanks to an influx of people from LA and elsewhere, much of the racism has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Sure, there are still those people around but, thanks to much more diversity in the schools, our kids and grandkids don't recognize all those idiotic stereotypes kept in force by the dust-bowl Oakies and the kids they infected with their prejudices. I had more than one "Discussion" with older men who tossed the "N" word around like a comma.

She Dee

NorCal for far more Nazi's than I ever saw in Kern County. Here, they hide under the guise of The XX State of Jefferson & proudly fly their flags on the front of their homes, businesses & stinky diesel trucks & SUV's!


not getting your way kind of sucks for you huh?


These were my thought exactly when I saw this story. I live at 17th Place in the heart of East Chester. There is so much arts and entertainment withing walking distance of my home that many times it is hard to decide what to do with my evenings and weekends.I'm tired of broad brush criticism of our community and vibrant downtown scene by people who don't know the first thing about Bakersfield and have never set foot in our town.


East Chester? Really now. Did Don Martin think of that one before he abandoned Downtown? It seems to be a block long only on 18th Street. The Silver Fox, Too Fat, Goose Loonies and Mexicali have been destinations for years before the term EC was brought to life. I’m glad you like your new neighborhood.

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