Reader: One of your Monday columnists, Anna Smith, was right when she said local news sources are the watchdogs that protect democracy and local quality of life ("When we starve the watchdog, we threaten democracy," Dec. 31). I wish they’d make decisions that ensured they’ll be here for us in the future. But they don’t.
Compared to the inspiring posts in my Instagram feed or the hilarious and digestible news roundups from the Morning Brew in my inbox — local news publishers just don’t compete.
Not because they can’t, but because they continue to make traditionalist decisions. They believe in the high school teacher’s rules of English like scripture. They believe objectivity in the news isn’t a fantasy. They’re slow to adopt effective news delivery techniques. They believe writing with personality is beneath them.
As a content writer with viral posts online, I’ve learned writing with personality is fundamental. When so many of our interactions happen through device screens, it’s important the person on the other side feels real. I’ve learned it’s important to meet readers where they are — in bed with the covers pulled up in the morning, reading what news they can digest inside of 10 minutes from their smartphones.
Would it be nice to peruse the paper on a slow morning, cup of coffee in hand? Of course. But who has the time?
Anna’s right. We need local news. We need them to implement modern news delivery techniques and writing styles. Or readers like me will watch their continued slow death with sadness, while the rest of the world moves on.
— Mandy Wallace
Price: Everything you write here, Mandy, is insightful and true ... but, at the same time, you are mostly mistaken.
Once upon a time readers got their Bakersfield Californian one way and one way only — wrapped in plastic, lobbed onto their driveway. Today, we're using multiple platforms or points of entry: the traditional printed paper; our e-Edition, which is a digital facsimile of the paper; our website, Bakersfield.com; our mobile app; our emailed newsletters; our emailed news alerts; our mobile alerts, similar to text messages; our daily, on-demand audio report (think Alexa or Google Assistant); and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition, we have video webcasts such as "BVarsity Live" and my soon-to-debut "One on One" interview series; video storytelling that supplements written articles; Bakersfield Life magazine; and assorted other print and digital products.
Hundreds of thousands of people are consuming the news and information we produce daily — hourly, in fact — not just from the newspaper but across the digital space.
I think that speaks to our understanding of a rapidly changing news environment. The addition of those platforms grew out of conscious decisions to abandon the single-mindedness of the old way. I admit I sometimes lapse back into the print-centric mindset of an old-school journalist, but I fight it.
I personally have no illusions about objectivity. We're humans, writing about humans. But trained journalists observe certain practices that promote balance and fairness. Some writers are less inclined than others to follow those practices, and some consider themselves commentators or opinion columnists whose job is to promote a point of view. But the newspaper reporters I know work hard to avoid the perception they're anything less than objective, sometimes to the detriment of their stories: The impulse to "get the other side" can cause journalists to give equal weight to a group with faulty, irresponsible arguments. One of many challenges.
"Writing with personality" is beneath us? Ouch. Some journalists write with more flair than others, no question. I have no qualms about trying to be one of them.
It's important that we at least know and respect our high school teacher’s rules of English — it's clear you do, Mandy. But scripture? I say, if you know the rule, and have a good reason to break it, go ahead. (This has nothing to do with my apparent mental block regarding "lay" and "lie.")
You're not completely wrong, Mandy. We can do a better job of meeting readers "where they are" and we'll keep trying. I like to think bringing aboard people like Anna Smith reflects that effort.
Reader: Do you know if the city's transportation plans include a traffic light installed at Enos Lane? ("The man who literally cleared way for the Centennial Corridor," Jan. 2.) I don’t believe I’ve seen anything mentioned about the upgrades out west of town. There are some serious backups at certain times of the day currently and if there is not an upgrade it will be much worse once Highway 58 is diverted in that direction. Just curious; maybe you could help with some information.
— Richard Thomas
Price: Matter of fact, I recently spoke with Luis Topete, an engineer with the city of Bakersfield assigned to the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, about upcoming transportation projects. He says Enos Lane will not get a traffic signal where it crosses Stockdale Highway just east of Interstate 5. Rather, it will get a $6 million traffic circle, likely completed by the end of 2019. Traffic circles, or roundabouts, are safer than the four-way traffic signals we're more accustomed to — no matter what the perception might be.
Reader: Happy New Year! In Dilbert's words, happy random calendar date. We've been absent for three weeks. Just in case you might miss me, I took care to have one of our neighbors save the Sound Off for me.
On the first Sound Off (Dec. 15), you used "effect" for "affect." A serious error, I think. Aside from a minor typo following that, I found no other thing to criticize. It must be because I was in a hurry, or something.
In the new year, I already have a small critical remark to make. The idea of giving the holiday hours on the actual holiday is not a good one. I took out our trash can last night, as well as those of a couple of neighbors whose mobility is not good. Then, this morning, I found out what I already assumed to be true: That I am 24 hours ahead. My wife made no such assumption, so those cans are out there all day and I don't care. It's not my fault.
— Larry Dunn
Price: Ugh. I hate it when you're right. Which is pretty much every time. I must have been in a hurry, or something.
As far as publishing holiday hours for government offices, garbage collection, etc., we try to provide that information a good three or four days in advance of the holiday in question. If we failed to do so at any point last week, you have my apologies. I would argue that it is in fact helpful to provide holiday hours on the actual holiday; ideally, however, we've also published them a few days prior.
Sorry about your trash cans. At least you weren't 24 hours too late.
Reader: For your next neighborhood feature ("Where We Live: The fight to save Oildale," Dec. 23), take a look at Homaker Park, the neighborhood near West Columbus Street. It once was solidly middle class and now it's the ghetto or worse because City Hall ignored it for 50 years. My spouse and I married 53 years ago and rented our first apartment on 30th Street. What happened?
— Don Kurtz
Price: Something called roadsnacks.net rated the "10 Worst Bakersfield Neighborhoods for 2019," and indeed Homaker Park — the area around 34th Street — was No. 1. Not a nice distinction. I'll file that information away for a future "Where We Live" feature. As with my column about Oildale, the idea would be to find and support residents who are trying to do something about their neighborhood's problems.
Reader: Regarding your annual "Headlines we'd like to see in 2019" feature in the Dec. 31 Opinion section: "McCarthy holds live town hall, leads arena audience in stirring 'Kumbaya'" was a good one. Nice and sarcastic —did you come up with it?
After reading your end-of-2018 column ("Let's hope we're not shouting 'good riddance' again 12 months from now," Dec. 30) I thought you might like to use something from my 2019 wish list in your Sound Off:
Limit election campaigning to six weeks — and no PAC money. Government funding, only, for campaigns, and only for candidates who have passed an ethics (in both life and business) test that covers lying and general morality. And they must score above 120 on an IQ test.
— Donna Jackson
Price: Talk about sarcastic! Well, those aren't unreasonable standards. Over the years, both parties have allowed a few to sneak through who might not measure up.
Reader: I refer to the Page One article in the Dec. 29 paper about the local Kwanzaa celebration ("Kwanzaa event celebrates African heritage, culture"). It is marvelous that the black American community has an annual celebration to unite and rally that community. It reminds me of other ethnic celebrations held in America such as St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish or Cinco de Mayo for those of Mexican descent.
I have learned by inference from Robert Price that when I submit or anyone else submits material to Sound Off, it had better be well-researched and well-articulated in order to preclude his sometimes sharp but thoughtful critiques. For anyone’s reference, there is an informative website on the Kwanzaa subject, www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org, which gives a history of the origin, development, and adoption of Kwanzaa as a celebratory event in the United States.
Some of the attendees at the referenced local event seemed to lack basic knowledge about Africa, however. Some seem to think Africa has a homogenous black population from which they derive their common culture. Africa is a large continent consisting of 54 countries and several territories, as of 2016. Some of those are not predominantly populated by black Africans. There are thousands of different ethnic peoples in Africa even among those who are black. Therefore, the celebration of Kwanzaa does not solely represent an element of black culture but perhaps the culture of any ethnicity that claims African ancestry.
My purpose here is not to denigrate the holiday, but to correct some of the misinterpretations I gleaned. It is admirable that the black American community can find a common event to rally around to celebrate the common identity.
By the way, I am an old, 10th-generation, white American. I lived and worked in West Africa for five years. My two children were born there, so claim to be African-Americans themselves.
— Richard Burritt
Price: Your letter is both well-researched and well-articulated, so I will spare you the sometimes sharp but thoughtful critiques and simple say thank you. I didn't know a lot of that stuff. And, yes, I fact-checked you.