Sound Off

Friday, Mar 14 2014 06:00 PM

SOUND OFF: Oops! My arrogant liberal bias is showing again

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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, Californian executive editor rprice@bakersfield.com

I wish we newspaper-types had the time to manipulate the news the way some readers apparently think we do. I can't even carve out an hour for lunch most days, let alone plot ways to subject readers to my petty grudges and biases. But as long as people (myself included) see the news through their own prism of understanding, their own world view, this column will have fodder. Here's this week's menagerie.

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Related Info

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.

Reader: Pricey, Once again TBC demonstrates its fair and objective reporting. Your article on the IRS Lois Lerner congressional hearing that ran 3/6 ("Lawmakers spar as IRS official refuses to testify," page 42) was eight paragraphs with only two sentences about her taking the Fifth on any questions put to her by the chairman, Darrel Issa. Most of the article was about how he shut off Rep. Cummings' mike. No mention that Issa was totally within his rights as the chairman.

Had a conservative taken the Fifth at a congressional committee hearing, you and the rest of the liberal media would be pissing all over themselves to castigate and vilify in bold headlines such a person. Then today (March 7) to compound your arrogant bias you run an almost one-half page piece of crap by one of your favorite liberal hacks and conservative haters, Milk Toast (Washington Post columnist Dana) Milbank ("Issa plan: If you can't beat 'em, silence 'em"). He makes Issa the villain and motor mouth Cummings the victim and little or no mention of Lerner's role. Do you realize how utterly contemptible you and your liberal brethren are?

How's my punctuation and spelling Pricey? Am I up to your standards yet?

Sincerely, Your #1 protagonist,

-- Jack Balfanz

Price: Good to hear from you again, Jack. The Tribune-Times story we used didn't quote Lerner extensively because -- oh yeah! She took the Fifth.

Every newspaper in the country that I saw gave much more space to the Issa-Cummings tiff. Every one. Maybe you would have preferred we use the Fox News story I found online: "Issa, Cummings clash at hearing after ex-IRS official Lerner takes 5th" (essentially the same headline we had). Seven of the first 10 paragraphs are about Issa and Cummings with no mention of Lerner. Lerner's actions didn't even make it into the main headline of the conservative Wall Street Journal: "Cummings, Issa Do Battle at IRS Hearing." Or, for that matter, the first sentence of the article: "A House hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal ended in acrimony, as the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D, Md.) accused Republicans of a 'one-sided investigation' and GOP members walked out." Would you have liked either of those versions better? Issa apologized to Cummings the next day, by the way -- despite being, as you write, totally within his rights as the chairman.

I'll also point out that both of the cited stories were wrapped around photos of Issa and/or Cummings in a tizzy. Ours was right below a somewhat large photo (the only one on the page) of Lerner at the microphone. By any objective measure (and by that I mean just about everyone's but yours, Jack) we probably gave more play to Lerner's recalcitrance than the typical mainstream source.

My compliments on your punctuation and spelling. "Milk toast" is actually spelled "milquetoast" and "motor mouth" should be one word, but I suppose I can let that stuff slide. A-minus.

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Reader: Three Kern County sheriff's deputies rescue a woman and her three dogs from her burning house. They have to pull her out through a window because all the other entrances are burning. They save her life and NOT one word in the newspaper about this?? Did I miss it somewhere?"

... You don't print the "feel good" stories when the Sheriff's Department is involved (but) you sure don't mind blasting them on the front page of your paper ... Sad (you) are SO biased!!

-- Carol Langston, via Facebook

Price: Let me see if I have this right, Carol: Deputies pull off a dramatic, heroic predawn rescue, saving a woman and her dogs from a burning home before firefighters can even arrive, and we creeps here at The Californian consciously decide to ignore it ... because we hate the sheriff's department? Our vindictiveness (or whatever you'd call it) trumps ethics, duty and the opportunity to craft a compelling story? Oh-KAAAAY.

The lousy truth is that we somehow missed this rescue. We pride ourselves on getting important news that our competitors sometimes have missed, but the opposite happened this time. We got our tails kicked. We did follow up with a story in Thursday's paper, though, and it had details others didn't.

You didn't say which of our front-page stories blasted the KCSO. I looked at two weeks of front pages and found nothing remotely fitting your description. Maybe our definitions of "blast" are really really, really different. And we ignore positive stories? Did you miss our great photo display on the Sheriff's Activity League annual fishing derby last week? Or "Coffee with a Cop," an event the KCSO organized to encourage public feedback? The department invited us to cover it, so we did -- and got some insights into Oildale's meth problem.

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Reader: I think you showed disrespect to Monsignor Perry in the way you made the headline of your Sound Off page on the front of the local paper ("Point out the inaccurate reporting, Monsignor," March 8). Really!! You had to make it sound like Monsignor Perry did not have a right to respond to Cox's (article) and he did point out to you inaccurate reporting and to me a very biased (article). How many times did John Cox call Mrs. Bears and John Fanucchi? Once!!

I for one know you could have handled this story better and your headlines for your Sound Off page, but I find that The Californian prints a lot of negative stories about Garces and the Catholic Church, when some stories make the back page of your paper for some reason Garces and the Catholic Church make headlines in your newspaper.

-- Norma Sacchini

Price: Absolutely no disrespect intended. Monsignor Perry completely had the right to respond to John Cox's story. That's why we published his letter in its entirety on the front page of our Local section and called attention to it with that headline.

However, to borrow a phrase from myself: Point out the inaccurate reporting, Norma. Our story said the Diocese of Fresno reassigned Principal Bears to the classroom next year because, in part, she reacted too slowly to a serious disciplinary problem. The reassignment wasn't for that reason alone, but it was a factor. That's what the diocese told our reporter. Ask the diocese yourself. We didn't make it up. How big a factor was the disciplinary issue? The diocese didn't say, and we didn't speculate.

How many times would you have called Mrs. Bears and John Fanucchi? Three times? Four? Ever checked your phone and found three messages from the same person, left over a period of just a couple of hours? Someone you didn't especially want to talk to? As it was, Fanucchi wasn't particularly delighted to find a reporter at his house when he came home. Cox was sufficiently persistent, no more and no less.

I don't know Monsignor Perry but in the last week friends of mine have spoken of their admiration of him. I don't doubt for a second that he is a wonderful man who loves his Garces family. I simply answered his concerns with the unvarnished truth. I'm sorry if I offended. Maybe I should have used a little varnish.

I don't know what to tell you about the supposed tendency of The Californian to print negative stories about Garces. I guess you're referring to stories about the ongoing staff turnover and reassignment at one of the oldest and most revered schools in the county. Our analytics tell us there's plenty of reader interest there.

By the way, did you see the front page of that same March 8 issue? It had one of the biggest A1 photos I've ever seen, anywhere: The Garces girls' basketball team celebrating a Central Section championship. It was literally almost half the page. The champs were all over our Sports cover, too. If we could have convinced columnist Valerie Schultz, a proud and vocal Catholic, to opine about the school as well, Garces would have owned every section except the classifieds.

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Reader: I wish you guys wouldn't put what people are making (in the paper), like a recent (article about the new) Kern High School District (superintendent's salary) and ... (the salary) they are going to retire on. ... There are a billion people on the Internet ... looking for information like that. It makes people an easy target. ... So maybe consider that.

-- Ellis Villalovos

Price: Robbers and burglars are probably somewhat less likely than non-robbers/burglars to be avid newspaper readers. I'm guessing thieves are more inclined to find their victims simply by rifling through garbage cans for personal information, eyeballing houses, looking for alarm systems and dobermans, etc., rather than searching through the newspaper on the off-chance they'll learn how much a random public figure earns.

It's your right to know how much school superintendents, high-ranking officers in the sheriff's department and other public servants earn because it's your tax money.

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Reader: Dear Mr. Price, I would like to express my disappointment about your paper leaving out my name in the article about History Day winners on page 4 of the of March 10, 2014, edition. My name is Kimberly Jensen and I am a county winner and state representative in Individual 2-D display. I am in fifth grade and I am very upset you did not include me in the list of names for 2-D display winners. I felt every winner should be included somehow. It is very disappointing that I won and did not get any recognition at all for my accomplishments from The Bakersfield Californian. In the future I hope you will not leave out any more names even if they are just 10.

-- Kimberly Jensen

Price: Well, we didn't leave it out on purpose, Kimberly. I am very sorry. Yours was the only name on the fourth page of a fax we received from the event sponsor and our reporter didn't see it. We ran a correction in our March 11 edition and corrected the results in the online version of the story. I hope you win the state History Day competition so we will have another chance to put your name in the paper. As an aside: I studied history, among other things, in college and loved every minute of it. I hope you continue to be interested in it.

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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