Sound Off

Saturday, Aug 31 2013 08:00 PM

SOUND OFF: Why some letters to the editor are allowed to offend

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    Californian executive editor John Arthur.

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By JOHN ARTHUR, Californian executive editor jarthr@bakersfield.com

READER: What led to the decision to include Gary Cameron's letter to the editor, "Most bigoted president ever crushing 'dream' "?

I would hope that politically biased extremism from the right fringe is not considered the norm. Such hateful speech does not serve a purpose in the newspaper. I was very offended by the letter. It seems that The Californian is being pulled to the right politically from the predominant religious right in Kern County. I am getting very close to cancelling my subscription.

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The Californian welcomes your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 661-395-7649 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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Follow John Arthur on Twitter @BakoEditor

Matt

mdraue@pacbell.net

 

ARTHUR: We asked Editorial Page Editor Robert Price to respond:

Matt, that's one of the most difficult things about this job -- weighing whether or not include voices from the extremes of the debate.

The only fair thing we can do is scrutinize these letters for facts. If it's factual and doesn't unnecessarily attack a non-public figure (that is to say, public figures aren't protected the way ordinary citizens might be) it's potentially fair game for publication.

Cameron's letter did not cite "facts" that weren't facts. He simply interpreted what he sees in ways that you may not -- and that some will, as you say, find offensive. Cameron's letter is not untypical of what we receive in terms of, shall we say, passion.

Believe me, though, the publication of certain readers' viewpoints, conservative or liberal, does not indicate that we're being pulled in any particular direction. If you look at some of our recent positions it should be clear we can think for ourselves and we're not afraid to go against the grain as conscience dictates.

Robert Price

***

 

READER: What is the difference in THEFT, BURGLARY, ROBBERY that is printed in your crime report page?

Phyllis Smith

Bakersfield

 

ARTHUR: We asked police and court reporter Jason Kotowski to research this and he got the following answer from Bakersfield Police Dept. Public Information Officer Michaela Sims, who wrote:

These are definitions per our reporting standards to the Department of Justice.

Burglary: the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft

Robbery: the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or putting the victim in fear.

Theft: the unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another.

 

Thanks to Michaela for helping us out here.

 

***

 

READER: First, my compliments on the e-edition. Husband Jack and I are active retirees, enjoying beautiful Bear Valley Springs and doing our best to not be "left behind" in this technology era. A huge, but fortunately rare, fly in our ointment has been the occasional disruption in delivery due to weather or whatever.

Not only has that problem been solved by the e-edition, but we can now both read the paper at the same time! If only there was some way to do the crosswords on our iPad and iPhones, well that would be perfection!

And I love being able to respond so easily! Just a touch of the finger brings makes it possible to "sound off" with a compliment or complaint, which brings me to "For Better or Worse."

Wow! I realize that this strip has been in reruns for about five years, and that Lynn Johnston was reminiscing fondly when this first ran, but really? Did [last Sunday's] strip not raise any eyebrows?

I would have thought it in questionable taste when it ran the first time, decades ago, but now? ...This one really knocked me for a loop. At least somebody had the good sense to bypass the first two panels of the original strip, where Mike is invited to come "check out" some new kids on the block and exclaims, "OK... Wait'll I get my gun!"

Perhaps a better idea would have been to bypass the rest of the panels, as well. It's just bad on so many levels.

Thanks,

Pam

wildermuthjp@sbcglobal.net

 

ARTHUR: First, thanks for your enthusiastic review of the e-edition. More and more readers are sending the same message, and are signing up.

I would agree that the For Better or For Worse strip in question was odd. It seemed to be a satire on gun violence but it did not work for me and was borderline offensive.

Normally, if a strip is deemed sensitive, the syndicate that provides it will alert editors. That didn't happen with this strip. We've told them they should have flagged it -- or not sent it at all.

Thanks for your comments.

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