Sound Off

Sunday, Jan 13 2013 03:00 AM

SOUND OFF: What was up with that mob of rude reporters?

BY JOHN ARTHUR Californian Executive Editor jarthur@bakersfield.com

READER: Just watched (Thursday's) news conference on Taft's shooting at the high school.

As Sheriff Youngblood explained, "it just happened, and we don't have all the details. I'll give you what we can."

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What did some of the reporters ask? Some of the stupidest questions a first grader wouldn't have asked.

"Why did he do it?"

"Do his parents work for the school?"

"Is this a bullying problem?"

"We heard he had a hit list."

The sheriff had just said, "we don't know anything yet."

(One) reporter kept insisting... still trying to get the "edge" on the other reporters.

Then we wonder why the newspapers are going down. Maybe a little less political B.S. and more common sense would sell more papers.

Ray Novak

Bakersfield

ARTHUR: Press conferences are like that, whether in Taft or at the White House. Reporters are not trying to get an "edge" on other reporters. In fact they are all in the same place so no one has the edge on anyone else in that setting.

Reporters repeat questions and try to ask them in different ways for only one reason -- to get information.

Kern Sheriff Donny Youngblood was the main speaker at both a midday press conference Thursday and another televised session at 5 p.m. (in time for the evening news).

The sheriff provided a tremendous amount of useful information that day, in my view, and helped the public begin to understand this baffling, awful event.

You mentioned several questions:

* "Why did he do it?"

* "Do his parents work for the school?"

* "Is this a bullying problem?"

* "We heard he had a hit list."

These weren't "stupid" questions, In fact all these issues were circulating madly around the crowds of parents and students who had gathered at the school. You could tell that little sparks of fact were roaring into flaming rumors.

Reporters heard the rumors and wanted to ask about them, partly to separate fact from fiction.

At the 5 p.m. session the sheriff addressed several of these issues. He said bullying seemed to be a concern and he said his deputies were looking into reports of a hit list.

This event attracted worldwide attention. The reporters from here and elsewhere who raced to the scene probably looked to you like an unruly mob. But they were doing their best to glean information for their readers and viewers.

***

READER: As subscribers to this paper for 42 years now, we were very disappointed to see the article about the Beef Industry, from Kansas City, on the front page. The graphics and the extensive coverage were not necessary in a family newspaper.

If your purpose was to educate, why not inform your readers about the almond orchards in this county, or the weather affecting the cherry crop this year, or the many other items of interest in California? This was disgusting!

Janet S Fishburn

ARTHUR: I found the the Big Beef series from the Kansas City Star detailed and fascinating and thought that the articles shined a light on what is essentially a manufacturing process that we don't know much about.

One editor here found herself in a group of friends intently discussing the series. The talk ranged from "they're trying to make us all vegetarians" to "I won't get sick. I don't buy that meat" to "what's with that huge graphic?" Another person was trying to explain the meat tenderizing process.

This is exactly the kind of reaction we hoped for. These articles were a conversation starter, particularly for anyone who eats beef.

I think that's most of us.

***

READER: I have finally reached the screaming point. Inga Barks should be on the Opinion Page and Valerie Schultz should be in the religious section.

This is a NEWSpaper. Articles should be current events. There are appropriate pages for opinions. And even Opinion writers should get their facts right.

And your comics section stinks. "Get Fuzzy", really?

Johnnie K. Adams

Bakersfield

ARTHUR: What? You didn't mention Herb Benham? I think he will feel left out.

Yes, we have religion and opinion pages. Valerie Schultz sometimes writes for the Faith page but we also like her very personal column as a break from the hard, and often grim, news in the local section.

Inga Barks is one of several Saturday columnists we enlisted to offer a point of view. While her columns often would be at home in Opinion, I find her writing accessible and provocative and a welcome addition to the Saturday paper.

The comics? I resolved not to got there this month. This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms

and compliments or ask questions about news coverage. Your questions --

which may be edited for space -- are answered each Sunday by Executive

Editor John Arthur. On the web:

Follow John Arthur on Twitter @BakoEditor

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