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 should have known The Californian would put the lowest, most negative comment from James Comey’s testimony on the front page (“Former FBI chief’s testimony: Trump lied,” June 9). This paper leans ever so steadily to the left of center.
Positive headlines, especially with regard to politics, must have eluded this paper’s editorial decision-makers but in this community, where many no longer subscribe to this shrinking-in-size newspaper, I would think a more positive headline about Thursday’s revealing testimony would have been more appropriate. This is simply a request to report fairly and accurately without bias.
How about “Trump not under investigation”; how about Comey leaking his notes to a college professor; how about Comey botching the Hillary Clinton investigation but was being told by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to refer to it as a “matter?”
Comey was the head of the FBI and said he wasn’t strong enough to challenge President Trump. Really?
Comey will soon find himself under investigation. Perhaps his need for revenge against Trump for firing him overshadowed his common sense and good judgment.
— Gail Schweikart
Reader: Nice manipulation of front page fonts, Bob. Uncorroborated testimony is your headline? TBC is sinking to new liberal lows.
You didn’t put “Clinton lied” on your front page when the president of the United States was accused of raping Kathleen Willey and had sexual encounters with others in the Oval Office. Thanks for misrepresenting or skewing the truth.
— Will Winn
Reader: I watched the hearing. All I ask is be fair and honest. Give both sides. I have taken the paper for years. But this feels so one-sided. I’m sad and ashamed.
There was plenty of dirt to go around. But when I looked at front page I felt, “you’ve got to be kidding?!”
— No name given
Reader: The biggest words are “Trump lied”? Are you kidding me? You people are trying to brainwash the public! You are loathsome and despicable!
— No name given
Price: Let’s take a step back and look at what just happened here. The until-recently FBI director called the president of the United States a liar no fewer than five times under oath before a television audience of 20 million people. I feel confident in saying that in the annals of U.S. Senate hearings nothing remotely close has ever occurred.
Several explosive statements came out of Comey’s testimony, and these readers have named a few of them. None compare with Comey’s straightforward portrayal of President Trump as a teller of falsehoods.
Gail and Will, you say that our headline reinforces a left-leaning bias. I can’t imagine a scenario where testimony of this nature targeting a Democratic president would be one iota less explosive — or less deserving of identical headline treatment.
The Washington Times, probably the nation’s most reliably conservative daily newspaper, saw it the same way: “Comey accuses Trump of repeated lies” was its banner headline.
Someone in our newsroom must have leaked our plans to the Dallas Morning News, another extremely conservative paper, because that publication’s main headline was “Comey: Trump lied.”
And from another consistently conservative paper, the Salt Lake City Tribune, quoting Comey: “‘Lies, plain and simple.’”
Criticize Comey’s testimony if you want to, but don’t label us “loathsome and despicable” for extracting the one aspect of his testimony that historians will most vividly recall.
Reader: I realize that it’s too late now, but hopefully I can stop you from making this error again in the future. Why would you print a huge picture of Aaliyah Wilson falling in the 100 meter hurdles and a smaller one of her winning her heat in the 100 meters? Next time please focus on the positive and have the pictures match the headline, which read “Wilson battles back.”
— Kathy Iturriria-Laverty
Price: The pictures matched the headline perfectly. The act of “battling back” first requires some sort of setback, because it’s a two-part story. The two photos by Nick Ellis captured those moments vividly, and Sports Editor Zach Ewing nailed the drama in the lede of his accompanying story:
“It’s the classic sports story, something straight out of ABC’s Wide World of Sports: The harder you fall, the more rewarding the return to glory. Stockdale junior Aaliyah Wilson exhibited both the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory in the span of 77 minutes.
“Wilson clipped a hurdle and crashed to the track in her signature event, the 100-meter hurdles, at 6:10 p.m. She left the infield in tears, only to return at 7:27 p.m. to run in the 100 meters, in which she out-leaned Jazmyne Frost of Gardena-Serra to win the fourth heat and qualify for tonight’s state final.”
But why not flip the photos and run the shot of Aaliyah’s 100-meter victory as the dominant piece? Because, as good as it was, we’ve seen photos of sprinters grimacing toward the finish line before.
The best sports photos — the best photos of any sort — are the ones that capture human emotion, and Nick’s perfectly timed shot of Aaliyah at the moment she realizes she’s going down does just that. There’s shock, uncertainty and more than a little terror in her face. It’s a great photo.
We’ve heard complaints like yours before, Kathy: Why did you publish that photo of School X’s sixth-place Math Day team looking puzzled rather than the confident smiles of School Y’s ultimately victorious team? Because the photo of School X’s team was the better shot — more emotion, superior composition.
Oftentimes the joy-of-victory photo is the better shot, but not always. We’ll base photo selection decisions on that criteria every time.
Reader: Every high school in the city was nicely represented in your published photos of the new graduates except Independence. I’m very disappointed in not one photo of a recognizable graduate, only the faculty posing for a selfie and a shadowy, unrecognizable poor excuse for a photo. A missed opportunity to cheer on the grads at IHS similarly to the other city high schools.
— Debby Rodrigues
Price: Readers need to realize that these are news photos of public events, not yearbook photos designed to depict as many smiling seniors as possible. Some of the best photos from our five pages of grad ceremony coverage in the June 2 issue played with light, shadow and silhouette and didn’t clearly show faces. Several showed only the backs of heads.
And graduation isn’t just about the grads. I loved Rod Thornburg’s photo of the eight Independence High staffers grinning for that selfie. They’re on vacation now, too.
I’ll refer you to the previous question about the sprinter’s tumble: Best photo wins, period.
This is the third straight year we’ve gone crazy with graduation photos. Readers love them (mostly); they’re always among the most viewed items on bakersfield.com.
Reader: Boy, The Bakersfield Californian sure takes a lot of flack for some of the stories and pictures that it publishes. A man with a large tumor. An evil murderer smiling and waving at the victim’s family. Venereal diseases. “420 day.” Many people have all kinds of reasons why they think these stories and pictures are inappropriate. They are gross. Offensive. Insensitive. Not suitable for a “family newspaper.” Shocking to children who see them. Not newsworthy.
All of these stories and pictures are about what goes on in real life. Some people just want to live in their happy little world of rainbows and puppies. The real world is not always pretty.
If certain people don’t like the content of The Californian they can always get their news elsewhere, where news isn’t so “ugly.” Like maybe People magazine.
Keep up the good work, TBC.
— Brad Roark
Price: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Reader: Subscriber Randy Grigg is correct about your “carefully chosen” conservative syndicated columnists. I like Charles Krauthammer, but am uncomfortable with Rich Lowry and George Will; Lowry is no William F. Buckley. Will may be like me, getting deeper into “rhetorical contortions” due to our advancing ages.
If you weren’t so racist and misogynist, you’d consider someone like Michelle Malkin or Laura Ingraham. Either of far greater political savvy would balance with lefty Valerie Schultz while providing solid political discourse.
— Gerald Todd
Price: It’s about time someone outed me as the racist and misogynistic person I’ve always been.
Perhaps you haven’t noticed that our stable of regular syndicated columnists includes Debra Saunders, a conservative of the female persuasion. We also frequently publish conservative Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post.
Of course our conservative syndicated columnists are “carefully chosen”; we didn’t pull them out a hat. Your implication, of course, is that they were chosen because they’re not fans of Donald Trump. Well, we selected most of our current columnists way back when citizen Trump was still expressing concern about climate change.
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