Robert Price

Friday, Aug 08 2014 01:52 PM

SOUND OFF: Israeli airstike photo simply told a compelling story

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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

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.

Reader: Regarding the (Aug. 2) front page photo showing an Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza, snapped by former Bakersfield College student Max Becherer: Great pictures and story of life in an almost incomprehensible place where chaos is basically routine/normal.

-- Shahzad Chaudhry

Reader: Hmmmmm, maybe those Hamas guys need to stop launching rockets into Israel. But if that happened, this guy wouldn't have pictures to take.

-- Jeffrey M. Packebush, from Facebook

Price: Max Becherer's photo of a smart bomb descending on a Gaza street was breathtaking in part because it placed the efficiency and impersonality of high-tech war into the mundane context of everyday life. Some readers seemed to think the photo, or its publication, inferred some sort of endorsement of one position or another. Jeffrey even seems to suggest Max is happy to see Hamas aggression because it affords him the opportunity to exploit human tragedy. Or am I reading too much into that comment?

Whatever. Many, many news correspondents, including photographers, have died in the pursuit of chronicling human conflict. Without their efforts, war becomes someone else's problem and our ability to weigh suffering as an element in deciding -- as individuals and a nation -- when and if to fight is lost. Journalists have shown suffering on the Israeli side as well.

Becherer, an East High graduate, has been flashing some Pulitzer credentials these past few years, none more stunning than this.

***

Reader: Regarding the Aug. 1 Our View, "Can McCarthy beat Ted Cruz at his game?":

So tired of looking at this man's picture everywhere. Climbing the political ladder is one thing, but this is a do-nothing Congress. What is there to brag about??

-- Barbara Meuleman, from Facebook

Reader: Dan Walters waxed poetic yesterday (July 31) about Kevin McCarthy (although his column is not to be found in the online paper) and today (Aug. 1) so does Our View. I guess they all missed McCarthy's less then stellar performance on Thursday. He and Boehner and Scalise couldn't count the votes and had to pull their bill for lack of votes. They are all absolutely worthless. And now they get a five-week paid vacation. Tough when they work 112 days a year.

-- Karen Johnson, from Facebook

Price: Readers who are tired of looking at the new House majority leader's photo are in for some bad news. They're likely to see more McCarthy in our coverage -- not less -- going forward. I'm not sure our editorial counts as bragging, but our editorial board has long taken the position that the Republican Party, and therefore the interests of many Kern County voters, is better served following the more moderate course championed by McCarthy and his associates. Part of the reason McCarthy's smiling visage will be a common sight here is that he, even more so than before, is on the front lines of a difficult battle for the conservative voter, the immigration-vote tug of war with Sen. Ted Cruz being just the most recent chapter. McCarthy and Speaker John Boehner won that fight the following day, by the way, although one can argue whether the half measures of the GOP bill qualify as victory. In the political sense, though, it was a clear victory for the new House leader.

The Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters has written approvingly of McCarthy before, so no surprise there. Walters got to know him when McCarthy led the Assembly Republican caucus in Sacramento a few years ago, so at least his opinions are based on personal experience. Walters doesn't appear on our website, by the way, because that's the deal we've struck with the Bee. Some syndicated columnists appear on Bakersfield.com and some don't. But they're all in our e-edition.

As for the do-nothing Congress comment, you'll get no argument here. Polarity and infighting have paralyzed Washington. McCarthy has his work cut out.

***

Reader: Regarding Lois Henry's Aug. 3 column "How many ways can you botch an assault response?": VERY well-written and I PRAY the lawsuit isn't the end of this. HEADS NEED TO ROLL!!! My ONLY issue was the use of the word "normal" in relation to neurotypical kids.

I have to add this: NOT ALL of KHSD, only a "select few." Some of my favorite people in the world work for KHSD.

-- Karen Pierce, from Facebook

Price: Agreed. Great column by Lois on the response (by the district and later by its insurance company) to an incident in a school restroom involving two developmentally disabled teens. New KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer will no doubt be taking a hard look at policies and protocols relative to this sort of thing. As for "normal," I agree with you. I am Lois' editor, and I'll admit my editing finger twitched over the keys at the sight of that word. I should have talked to her about it.

***

Reader: Regarding local high school teacher David Richmond's (Aug. 3) op-ed saying that students will continue treating education as a social experience -- instead of an opportunity to work hard and learn for the future -- as long as we let them:

So what do we do about it? Maybe the newspaper could publish academic accomplishments equal to the amount of school sports coverage. Maybe contact the high schools and junior highs for bios of outstanding students.

-- Tina Bomar, from Facebook

Price: That's such a good idea, we're doing it -- to a great extent, anyway. Readership drives many of our coverage decisions, naturally, and few things attract readers more than high school sports, especially football. That's not going to change.

But we devote as much time and space to academics as we can manage -- graduations, mock trial, We the People, Warren Cup, oral language competitions, etc. We've also added The Grade, reporter Lauren Foreman's weekly education roundup page, which always includes morsels of student achievement. We'll keep that focus strong.

***

Reader: As usual, we see Lois Henry on her fireworks crusade that just proves how utterly irrelevant The Bakersfield Californian has become. What Henry never tells you is her true motivation for hating fireworks. Like most animal nut jobs, she thinks personal pets should dictate community policy. You won't see her writing articles about barking dogs and the havoc they wreak on the peace and quiet of our neighborhoods, nor will you see her championing any kind of reasonable reform to the unmitigated breeding and sales of those animals in the community.

You see, animal rights are more important than fireworks, in her opinion, but only when those rights fit within her ideological guidelines. What you will see is the righteous indignation displayed toward an event that occurs once a year and results in fewer deaths, property destruction and havoc than a single NHL game. Naturally, the chief of the Bakersfield Fire Department will chime in because God knows the fire department is overwhelmed with fires (insert laugh track here). Perhaps Henry should find something more productive to write about, but zealots with a podium are hard to sway.

-- Name omitted because it's offensive

Price: I have alerted our sports editor he needs to pay more attention to all of those deaths in National Hockey League games. How did he (and everyone else in the world) miss all that?

As to the rest of your diatribe, I turned to the object of your scorn herself.

Henry: It seems pointless to respond to such a ridiculous rant. Particularly when the rant comes from a person who uses a vulgar and misogynistic pseudonym and whose Facebook page is equally offensive. Nonetheless, here you go:

I've always said -- in print, for all to read, with my real name attached -- that one of the many reasons fireworks are more costly than beneficial is that they cause animals to flee their yards in terror, adding to the burden of already overburdened shelters. So, wow, you caught me. Way to go, Sherlock.

But, oopsie, your powers of observation seem to have slipped a tad when you claim I've never championed reasonable reform re: unmitigated breeding, etc. Try this super secret squirrel detective trick: Type "lois henry and spay/neuter" into the Google machine and after you've read alllllll the stories there by me on the need to increase spay/neuter in this community you can let us know what you think. We won't bother waiting.

I don't follow NHL so have no idea if people have died or had their homes burned down because of those games. But that has happened here because of fireworks, more than once.

You may not think that's a big deal, but since it wasn't your house that burned or your dad who was killed, your opinion doesn't hold a lot of weight.

Finally, your backhanded claim that the Bakersfield Fire Department chief supports banning fireworks as a ploy to cover up his department's lack of fires, nothing could be further from the truth. You might know that if you read the paper on even a semi-regular basis instead of doing whatever it is you do.

***

Reader: You write: "Arguably one of the best basketball players ever from Kern County, Nikki Blue, is glad to be back in Bakersfield."

It should be "unarguably." Arguably means you could argue about it. Unarguably means there IS no argument about it. I can't believe a NEWSPAPER CAN'T GET THAT RIGHT!!!!!

-- Karen Pierce

Price: Permit me to argue. The adjective "arguable" has two opposite meanings: "it can be plausibly or convincingly argued," as in, "It's arguable that Karen is an expert," OR "open to argument, dispute or question," as in "It's arguable whether Karen is an expert." Its adverbial cousin "arguably" is likewise highly ambiguous. Personally I don't use "arguably" for that very reason. The word seems to turn up in sports contexts most often, and as most of you know, sports is its own language.

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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