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By ROBERT PRICE, Californian executive editor email@example.com
When our John Cox attended a March 1 community forum hosted by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP and heard the local branch's president essentially take credit for having convinced the Diocese of Fresno to remove Kathleen Bears as principal of Garces High School, he knew he might have stumbled upon a possible reason for her previously unexplained reassignment. He asked the diocese and other parties about the circumstances of her apparent demotion and produced "Garces principal's handling of video faulted," published March 2. In that story, a diocese official confirmed that the action against Bears was related, in part, to an abusive social media posting by a white Garces student directed at a black student that many construed as racist in tone, and Bears' supposed lack of haste in taking action.
Richard Sexton, the diocese's superintendent of Catholic schools, told Cox that Garces "could have responded faster. ... This one could have been handled a little better."
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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One reader thought The Californian could have handled the story a little better.
Reader: I am both frustrated and saddened by (John) Cox's article in the Sunday Californian implicating Mrs. Kathleen Bears, principal of Garces High School, in an event involving racial bullying on the part of one student towards another during the previous summer. I'm frustrated because the article contains misinformation which accuses Mrs. Bears of not acting in a timely way regarding the event. The truth is that Mrs. Bears was on vacation and was not present when the incident came to light. Therefore, another school official met with the family of the victim, took the appropriate information and forwarded it to officials of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno which oversees Garces High School. Although it took some days for the matter to be investigated, all procedures were followed and the student accused of making the racist remarks was expelled from the school before the academic year began.
What is so sad about the inaccurate reporting of this story is that Mrs. Bears' reputation has been damaged. The article infers that she must have some racist motivation for not dealing with the issue at hand (even though she wasn't present). Furthermore, the NAACP Chapter President presumed racial insensitivity on her part when making his comments. In doing so, he overstepped the boundaries of decency and respect. If The Bakersfield Californian and the NAACP were truly interested in speaking and writing the truth, they would have taken the time to meet with all parties involved. Instead, they rushed a false story to print and placed it on the front page. An apology is due.
Anyone who knows Mrs. Bears recognizes that she is a woman of deep faith who would never dishonor any person because of race, creed, sex or color. She is beyond reproach in her dedication to offering a Catholic-Christian education to all who desire it. Furthermore, her transition from the position of principal to full-time classroom teacher beginning with the next academic year has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned incident.
In spite of the occasional attempts by some to portray Garces High School in a questionable light, the administration, faculty and students of Garces remain united as a family and will move forward as necessary to make our school the best it can be.
-- Msgr. Perry Kavookjian
Rector, Garces High School
Price: Monsignor, your claim that "her transition from the position of Principal to full-time classroom teacher ... has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned incident" does not jibe with what your own diocese says. Perhaps this is something you should bring up with them.
No one ever suggested Bears' job change was a direct consequence of this one incident. The very first sentence of Cox's story says she was "stepping down in part because of her delayed response" to the student's video, and attributed it to a Diocese of Fresno official. We were told by the diocese that the speed with which the expulsion was carried out wasn't so much "the reason" for her job change as it was a contributing factor.
So, where, specifically, was the misinformation? Where is the inaccurate reporting? You suggest that if we were "truly interested in speaking and writing the truth, (we) would have taken the time to meet with all parties involved." We were truly interested, so we went looking for the parties involved. The diocese talked to us, obviously, but Bears did not return a phone call. Cox, having tried and failed to reach John Fanucchi, the school's top administrator, went to his house and arrived just as Fanucchi drove up. Fanucchi, who holds the title of president, declined to comment.
The article most certainly does not suggest Bears "must have some racist motivation for not dealing with the issue at hand." There is no way around the fact that the issue involves racist-seeming comments and intervention by the NAACP. People will infer what they will infer; all we can do is state the objective facts. For the record, Cox did not talk to anyone who made any such allegation, nor even hinted of it.
You defend Bears' integrity -- and I have no doubt it is absolutely worth defending -- but you have no problem ripping a conscientious and thorough reporter who got this story right. I, too, am both frustrated and saddened.
Reader: THE WINNER IS ... Not the Californian. I was excited to see the headline for Monday's Californian, "The Winner Is" -- however, instead of a picture of our beloved Kevin Harvick, we get a picture of the filthy rich 1-percenters in liberal Hollywood. It's OK. I understand. Kevin wins more trophies in a year than most of those out of touch elitists in Hollywierd do in their life.
-- Mark Thompson
Price: I assume you're excluding Meryl Streep from the trophy counting competition, Mark. But you almost hit the nail on the head: "Kevin wins more trophies in a year" than Hollywood has Oscar presentations. There's only one of those shows per year, and 43.7 million people, the biggest audience of any Academy Awards since 2000, watched this one. Many of them might have fallen asleep before the end and were happy to see the Best Picture result on our front page.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled Sports Monday. Go, Kevin.
Reader: Regarding Bakersfield Life March 2014: I am very offended by the ad on the inside cover by Beautologie. Are you so desperate for advertising dollars that you are willing to publish soft porn? This does not reflect the morals of the Bakersfield I know. I am saddened to see how far things have gone. What was once considered offensive has now become the norm.
-- Audrey Owens
Price: Beautologie specializes in breast augmentation and the company's two-page ad features an "actual patient" of still-modest cuppage in a two-piece swim suit. I've seen as much female anatomy on the cover of Cosmo while standing in line to buy groceries. I appreciate where you're coming from, but the service offered is, after all, breast augmentation. I'm betting Bakersfield Life is a pretty productive venue for the company to shop its services.
Reader: I'm reading the paper of March 5, 2014, and the "cartoon" WUMO, whose topic is "dog dating sites." I'm insulted that this is on the cartoon page. As far as I am concerned it is PORNO -- very suggestive and not funny.
Why in the world did this get printed?
-- Pat Wynn
Price: The comic shows a dog at his computer ogling the video image of another dog in profile. Most of the dog, anyway -- all but the head, shoulders and forepaws.
It's not porn, although one could come to the conclusion that's what the creators were alluding to. Some of the less dignified human dating sites out there allow members to focus more on their body than their face or personality, so this strikes me as a reasonable parody. Not a particularly funny parody, but a parody.
Reader: Thank you for including Mr. (Brik) McDill in your stable of columnists; he represents a rare few drops of rain in a cultural desert. As for the need for a thesaurus, I'm astonished the name is even familiar enough to be tossed about; however I fail to see the harm in a little more knowledge of the language which, perforce, we need in order to think.
Ah, there's the problem. Who in the world needs to think? Or read anything above 8th grade? I withdraw the question, but I will continue to enjoy thinker/writer McDill.
-- Beverly Stone
Price: Stop it, please. Brik's head is big enough already.
Reader: Good afternoon Bob. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your humorous Top 10 article ("A survey of cities we can't help but own," March 2) that featured Bakersfield as one of America's 10 Best Cities of the Future, while exposing statisticians' ability to skew survey data to serve their respective marketing needs. Bakersfield is, and always will be, a great city to live, work and raise our families. With best regards,
-- Harvey L. Hall, Mayor
Price: Stop it, please. My head is big enough already. (Thanks, Harvey.)
Reader: I have been paying attention to the letters written by the faithful prayer warriors, as well as those who take a more modern approach to precipitation. I must say that the most unsettling aspect is the language being used by The Bakersfield Californian, to describe the opinions of those different from the Judeo-Christian epistemology.
What I mean is that you recently published a letter from Jennifer Smith, who brilliantly elaborated on the religious impulse to seek out patterns in this way, in which she ended with the order she put her socks on as the determining factor for our recent rainfall. What was the headline in which you titled her letter? "More Satire: Socks caused rain."
Ladies and Gentlemen, perhaps you need a refresher course of John Milton's "Areopagitica," Thomas Paine's "Introduction to the Age of Reason," and/or John Stuart Mill's essay on Liberty. In a brief summary I'll ambitiously attempt to sum up all of these writings in a sentence or two, It is the right for the citizen to hear, not just the right to speak. And every time you silence someone, or reduce their opinion to satire, you are en potential making a rod for your own back.
George Orwell spoke about the destructive power of the public propagation at which this behavior sits on the fringe. Don't allow yourselves to be hypocrites in this sort of manner, as I now leave you with a quote from Francois De Larochefoucauld, "Hypocrisy is the compliment that vice plays to virtue."
-- Nick Miranda
Price: I can't tell if you're sincere or satirizing the "satire warning" we attached to Jennifer Smith's satirical letter. I conclude that you must be pulling my leg because you can't possibly be serious when you suggest that the "most unsettling aspect" of this ongoing debate about man's ability, or lack thereof, to summon God's grace through prayer is that we labeled her letter "satire." Your philosophy professor would throw the yellow hyperbole flag on that one.
"I'm convinced that I was the cause of Wednesday's rain," Smith wrote. "That morning, I put my sock on my right foot first instead of my left foot." If that's not satire, it's evidence of something most troubling.
The thing is, people don't "get" satire. They often believe the writer is being serious. I know this first hand. After about the 10th letter from a reader who failed to grasp the satire in one of my columns, or in a previous letter, and instead took the joke literally, I decided to actually label satire as such. Some newspapers ban satire completely in letters to the editor. I value satire (good satire) too much to do that, so I compromised with the labeling thing. Yes, I realize that takes some of the punch out of it.
You seem to be saying that calling something satire somehow diminishes it. It does not. Voltaire was a fan. As he wrote in 1767: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it." Good satire makes one's debate opponent seem ridiculous.
Finally, with all due respect, Nick: Epistemology? Who are you, Brik McDill?
Reader: I read (on Facebook) that you caused the last rain storm because you washed your car. I caused both rain storms because: the first one I paid hundreds of dollars to have my house cleaned top to bottom, inside windows including power-washing outside house and outside windows. It rained that week. Need outside windows washed again. Last week was the week we decided to have the movers come and take the furniture while we moved boxes in our pickup. Need new boxes.
My windows and cardboard boxes trump your car. So there.
-- Johnnie K. Adams
Price: I concede.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won't be published.