Robert Price

Friday, May 16 2014 11:46 AM

SOUND OFF: Will taxpayers be raising this Mother's Day baby?

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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: What's wrong with this picture?

When I opened up the paper today (May 12), the very first story is about the first a baby born on Mother's Day to Emily Castro, age 20. For the life of me I cannot understand why The Bakersfield Californian thinks this ("Mother's Day maternity opportunity: It's a girl") is newsworthy. As I read the article, I noticed there is not one mention of the father of this child either by name or even any acknowledgement of his very existence. It's just Emily and her mother. Will this mother makes sure her daughter has a relationship with her father?

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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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Will the taxpayers be on the hook for this child's living and medical expenses as she grows up because the father is not a contributing member of this child's life or to society for that matter? I just cannot get excited about the timing of this child's birth, when it seems apparent that the father is not a part of this picture. How ironic it is that on the very day this story ran, the (column) by Leonard Pitts in the Opinion section was titled, "The Absence of Fathers." Emily and her mother ought to try reading it.

-- Steve Laird

Price: The story of the Mother's Day baby, like those stories we see every Jan. 1 which focus on the first arrival of the New Year, is a classic from the old hometown-newspaper playbook. People love to read about mothers, babies and new beginnings. Unless, of course, the circumstances of the baby's arrival don't jibe with the most ideal of family scenarios as the reader sees it. And it's true: children benefit tremendously from a father's presence and single mothers tend to have a tougher go of it than those with cohabitating, fully engaged spouses.

It's interesting you should mention Pitts' spot-on column, however. He writes about newly crowned NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and his beautiful, must-hear award-acceptance speech. Durant paid special tribute to his mother, who raised him alone for about 10 years after her husband abandoned the family: "You made us believe," he told his mother, who was in the audience dabbing her eyes. "You kept us off the streets, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate."

We don't know the whereabouts of the father of Emily Castro's baby, whether he has the fortitude of character to step up and be a father, or even if Emily wants him to be part of her life. We do know that she chose motherhood and that her younger brother and three sisters call her "Sergeant" because of her no-nonsense approach. That alone suggests she's likely to be a good mother, at least as far as discipline and household management go.

Will she be a burden on society, as you suggest? It's impossible to say, but I do know it's unfair to impose negative expectations on her at his juncture. We don't know her whole story. We don't know her goals. Can't we just celebrate her happy day?

If anyone deserves criticism, it's the baby's father, who apparently was too busy to find the maternity ward. Here's hoping he makes it up to her -- and to his baby daughter.

***

Reader: Good job with the article in today's paper "Mother's Day maternity opportunity: It's a Girl!" Looks like another baby born to an unmarried mother. Continue the good work in normalizing this behavior -- it's a great contribution to our society. Before you wrap it up for the day, turn to page 15 and read Leonard Pitts' (May 12) column.

-- James Hull

Price: Over the past week we have also "normalized" texting while driving, aggressive panhandling, and the wisdom of protecting life and property with a guard cat. It's called covering the news without an agenda. Last Sunday Reporter-Editor Steve Levin took it upon himself to find a mother who delivered on Mother's Day, and Emily Castro ended up accepting the honors.

As Levin put it in his response to you, James: "No one's 'normalizing' anything. I'm just as concerned about single mothers as the next. The fact is, she had a baby on Mother's Day. Period.

"If you want a column on the issue of the absence of fathers, turn to page 15 of today's Californian and read Leonard Pitts' column."

Well, at least we can all agree about Pitts' fine column.

***

Reader: In reference to "Our View," May 11. I wonder who wrote that Kamala Harris should be re-elected as Attorney General. There was no name? That woman along with Gov. Jerry Brown decided the Prop. 8 votes of the majority of Californians were null & void.

-- LaVerne N. Kemp

Price: I don't think I've ever received a letter from a reader saying "What an excellent, on-the-mark editorial. Who wrote it?" As has been explained many times here and elsewhere, editorials are by definition the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, so no single individual gets a byline. Generally speaking, one person writes a first draft that expresses an agreed-upon position and others weigh in with refinements and other changes before the final version is posted.

Columns are a different story: They're the bylined opinions of individual journalists. Same with op-eds (as in "opposite-editorial"): They're the opinions of writers who don't work for this (or usually any) newspaper.

As for Prop. 8, I could have sworn Californian's same-sex marriage ban of 2008 was overturned in 2010 by the U.S. 9th District Circuit Court and that last June the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal. Brown and Harris declined to defend Prop. 8 in court, but they didn't exactly render it null and void all by themselves.

***

Reader: Nothing on melting-faster-than-expected glaciers in Antarctica this morning (May 13)? Not even a couple of sentences in a digest somewhere? Did I miss it?

I like to think of myself as an objective observer and a pragmatist. I'm no alarmist. But scientist are telling -- not warning -- us that climate change caused by global warming is happening, and it's happening faster than anticipated.

I realize, being the observer that I am, that this is a subject too complex for those convinced that Benghazi, the IRS and the BLM represent the only real threats to life as they know it, but ..??

Please tell me that front page, above the fold news in the NYT will at least get a sentence or two in tomorrow's TBC.

-- Pam Wildermuth

Price: Two groups of scientists reported last week that the melting of a large section of the West Antarctica ice sheet now appears to be unstoppable. We should have published a wire story on it.

***

Reader: In the past I have written a number of letters being critical of the Californian Opinion page and what I considered a slanted presentation toward the liberal viewpoint by your newspaper. However, I would like to compliment the Opinion page for presenting the article "New regulations more political than scientific," which demonstrates President Obama's climate change action plan is driven more by politics than the impartial science of climate change.

With this article you are showing a willingness to be balanced in your presentation of views between the left and the right. This fair minded approach is greatly appreciated and I look forward to further presentation of viewpoints on both sides.

-- Richard Schwartz

Price: Thank you, I think. We work hard to make sure the columns and op-eds in the Opinion section demonstrate a fair representation of multiple perspectives, and I think we do pretty well. We even went so far a few years ago as to count the left-right-neutral perspectives of the editorial cartoons we published over a six-month period. It slanted decidedly conservative, although you wouldn't have known it based on who complained about what.

Count on us continuing to present viewpoints from both sides and let us know if you think we fall short.

***

Price: A few weeks ago in this space we discussed how the digital photography has and has not changed the photo selection process for newspapers like this one. One reader recalled that "In the old film days photographers would submit undeveloped rolls of film to editors ... ."

Photographer Felix Adamo, who has been around long enough to know, emailed me to address that observation:

"I can't speak for other papers, but in my 35 years as a photographer at The Californian, we never turned over unprocessed rolls of film 'for careful perusal' by editors (that would have caused a mini riot in the newsroom!). Californian photographers processed their own film and edited the negatives on light tables. (We never used proof sheets.) After looking at each frame, we printed a selection of images for submission and then editors would decide which photos to use for the story.

"Since the digital age (The Californian has been totally digital for about 13 years), we do shoot more since film costs are no longer a concern. But staff photographers Henry Barrios, Casey Christie and myself still look at every image we shoot on an assignment, whether it be eight shots for a quick mug or over 700 images from a state high school football championship game. Each image is viewed (and) enlarged with editing software. The edited images are then color-corrected, cropped, dodged and burned (just like in the old film days, only electronically), then they are turned in for publication."

***

Price: Just a note on what this column is and isn't. It's not a forum for me to comment on the news per se. It's your opportunity to comment on this newspaper and the way we cover things (or miss things) -- and my opportunity to explain. I may express my opinions on the news from time to time -- OK, often -- but only within the context of why we made specific decisions about story placement and prominence.

I mention this because this week a reader asked me to analyze the Rose Garden speech that President Obama gave the day after the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi two and a half years ago. No thanks -- that sort of thing is outside the purview of this column. Now, if Obama gives another speech about that incident and you don't like the way we cover it in this newspaper, let me have it and I'll respond.

***

Reader: I noticed in your Sound Off thing, you mention all the people that agree with you but you don't mention anyone that disagrees with you. I think if you are going to have an open forum, you need to show both sides of it because everyone doesn't agree with everything that you say. So much of it is redundant. It's just on and on and on about the same thing.

-- Bill Goldman

Price: Wrong, Bill. Your memory is short. I love it when people disagree with me and I try never to miss an opportunity to let them have at it. Your note is a good example.

How dull would this column be if it were open only to readers who want to lavish praise on the newspaper? Nice as they are, those letters are the first things I cut -- usually to free up space for more criticism.

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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