Robert Price

Friday, May 02 2014 02:47 PM

SOUND OFF: Good news, bad news, even on religious holidays

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    Robert Price is The Californian's executive editor. Email him at rprice@bakersfield.com.

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By Robert Price

Reader: On Easter Sunday, of all days of the year, you decide to publish the "kill" number of animals in the shelter in the last year. Can you not do this on a day where a majority of religions spend the day rejoicing and not put this on the front page?

A friend of mine was telling horrid stories of this subject and I told her I did not want to listen in that certain social setting. Her answer was if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. I have been a member of the Cat People for 25 years, an original founding member.

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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.

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Follow Price on Twitter: @BakoEditor.

-- Mindy S. White

Price: If we'd kept all of the "horrid" stories out of the newspaper on Easter Sunday, we'd have deprived readers of some major news -- including updates on continuing stories that many were undoubtedly expecting to find.

I won't even get into how we might try to determine which stories could be considered sufficiently "horrid" to warrant exclusion, or which other religious observances might deserve the sort of news sensitivity you recommend for Easter Sunday.

James Burger's April 20 cover story, "Progress? Kern's euthanasia rates plummet," might have addressed a generally "horrid" topic -- putting down stray or unwanted dogs and cats -- but as a founding member of the Cat People, surely you would view his article as good news. James reported a 19 percent year-over-year drop in the number of domesticated animals killed at the shelter. James deserves a little credit for making it happen, too, I believe. His 2013 series, "Decade of failure: Kern County's animal overpopulation problem," established both the harsh reality of the county's shortcomings relative to kill numbers over the past 10 years and offered solutions, based largely on practices elsewhere. The county adopted some of those practices -- and now we see the result. Or at least we think we do; it's impossible to draw a direct correlation. All we know is, we've seen dramatic improvement recently. But we've still got a long way to go.

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Reader: Just wanted to compliment Mr. Robert Price on his answer on the (alleged lack of) Easter coverage ("Does the Bible beseech us to read the newspaper?," April 26). You recited some quotes from the Bible. I think you've got your second calling.

-- Ellis Villavolos

Price: If I'd spouted those Bible verses off the top of my head, I might be inclined to agree, but I shalt not lie: I enlisted the help of my friend, The Rev. Google. In any case, I think the qualifications for the type of calling I assume you're suggesting are a bit more extensive than I've demonstrated. But bless you for the thought.

***

Reader: In defense of BPD in regards to the bobcat: A few years ago I was jogging on the bike path and saw a bobcat. I had never seen one before. I later passed two bicycle BPD officers and told them I had seen a mountain lion. Their response was that it was probably a bobcat and not a mountain lion. I asked how they knew. Their reply? If it were a mountain lion it would most likely have attacked me. They knew and had seen bobcats before.

-- Julie Campe

Price: And yet the BPD saw fit to send out a press release and accompanying photo last month warning people of a possible mountain lion sighting, and we reported that warning. As they, and we, should have.

One of these days we could have a bobcat sighting that turns out to be a mountain lion sighting, so I see nothing wrong with these alarms, even if they do turn out to be false.

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Reader: After reading the paper this morning (April 30), I must have missed it. Lots on the Clippers but nothing on the emails from the top people in our country about how to describe (the September 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in) Benghazi. It's been on the news all week. I don't quite understand it -- nothing in our newspaper.

-- Pasty Clemo

Price: I'm not sure how the story could have been on the news all week because Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group that obtained internal emails from U.S. officials by way of the Freedom of Information Act (and subsequent legal maneuvering), made the bulk of them public on April 25 -- and mainstream media, including Fox News and the Washington Post, didn't pick up on it until April 29. The White House held a press briefing on the emails April 30, and the controversy made our front page the next day.

Getting the emails was a nice coup for Judicial Watch, but it seems to me these "smoking gun" documents only confirm what was reported several months ago. Democrats and Republicans argued over what they meant then and they'll continue to do so now.

Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, received a lifetime ban from the NBA commissioner April 29 and it was our cover story, and justifiably so, April 30.

***

Reader: Are you going to print anything about the $6 billion missing (from) the State Department ... (apparently paid) to contractors? We are killing ourselves trying to pay taxes and total fiscal irresponsibility (abounds). Our government is killing us. Haven't seen anything in the paper. Sure hope I do.

-- Patsy Clemo

Price: The Washington Post first reported this on April 3, the day the report was issued, but mainstream media have been slow to do much more with it. Last August Steve Linick, the inspector general who discovered the missing funds ($1 billion of which was somehow swallowed up by the security contractor Blackwater), found billions of dollars in delinquent loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seemed lackadaisical about, so the problem isn't just with the State Department. I wonder when the CIA will let Linick have a look at its books.

We'll keep an eye out for further developments.

***

Reader: On April 27, The Californian reported that the accident in which a pickup went off the road, hit a tree and a pole and caught fire happened on "SR-99."

On April 29, you reported the accident happened on "Golden State Highway."

While Highway 99 sometimes is referred to as "Golden State Highway" or "Golden State Freeway" (a usage that is perfectly OK to me), "Golden State Highway" is also the name of a COUNTY ROAD in the area (for example, the address of Bakersfield Truck Center is on Golden State Highway). So which road did this accident happen on, the freeway or the county road?

-- John Sweetser

Price: You're right, John -- that's confusing. Furthermore, several cities down the spine of California have county-maintained surface streets that are called Golden State Highway. I'll ask our staff to use "Golden State Highway" only for the surface street and Highway 99 or State Route 99 for the freeway.

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Reader: On page A7 (in an April 6 advertisement), Red White & Blue Gala announced a Thursday evening dinner at the Buck Owen's Crystal Palace. They've misspelled Buck Owens. Is nothing sacred any more?

-- Larry Dunn

Price: I continue to be irritated myself when I see Buck Owen's in place of the intended Buck Owens' (or even simply Buck Owens). I attribute those recurring errors to Americans' continuing bafflement at the apostrophe.

***

Reader: Let me see if I understand this. The Californian has a policy of not printing unsigned letters.

But it has no qualms about printing missives by an "unidentified caller." So, Mr. Price, please explain the reasoning behind these two seemingly contradictory policies. And also, if you would, please give me the number to call so I too can become an "unidentified caller."

-- Carlos42

from online story commenting

Price: Letters to the editor and the Sound Off column are two independent, distinct things. If a reader asks a question about The Californian's news coverage or its other products or services that I feel deserves an answer, I'll print the question in Sound Off -- sometimes even if the reader declines to leave his name. The same goes for Ask TBC, which is published Mondays. Occasionally I'll even pluck a semi-anonymous question out of the comments section under a story posted on bakersfield.com, as I did with yours.

Letters to the editor, published in our Opinion section most days, are different because we're giving readers the opportunity to air their unchallenged opinions, and people should be willing to stand behind their opinions.

Is that a fine line? Yes, probably.

Send your signed letter to the editor to opinion@bakersfield.com. Information on how to contact Sound Off is below -- and I do hope you'll leave your name.

***

Executive Editor Robert Price and The Californian welcome your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voice-mail message or send an email to soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won't be published.

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