Pick 6 - Editors Picks from Past Week

Friday, Feb 21 2014 10:00 PM

SOUND OFF: Break out the old Thesaurus: McDill is in town

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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

If you’re looking for a columnist who’s better looking than the one pictured here, such as Ric Llewellyn or Heather Ijames, you’re looking on the wrong day. Our band of merry, rotating columnists has moved from Saturday to Thursday. Why? Because our dynamic Thursday lineup of news and features was missing only one thing: a regular, locally written column. So that’s been fixed.

We figured Sound Off, previously a Sunday feature, was the logical thing to backfill the resulting Saturday void. It seemed odd for Sound Off, with my name on it, to appear in the same Sunday section as my other column — with one of them often just one page-flip behind the other. Now you can enjoy my stunning lapses of logic on two days, not just one.

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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.

This month we added a third local columnist to the rotation, as has long been our plan: Brik McDill, a clinical psychologist. McDill, who made his debut Feb. 1, was such a frequent contributor to our Opinion section’s Community Voices feature, this promotion, if you can call it that, means he might actually be writing less often.

This reader might consider that a blessing.

Reader: I read the first paragraph of this article (“Remember the flame of ethical excellence”) and yes, I understood every word Brik used. I have two advanced college degrees, so it was "easy peasy" as my granddaughter would say. However, I doubt that the vast majority of your readers went past this first paragraph. I truly understand having various opinions on issues as that generates conversation (hopefully thoughtful and productive), but I also understand that for a majority of your readers, this would have made no sense without a Thesaurus or a dictionary.

Additionally, I could understand when Brik was a (contributor) for Community Voices, but this article has absolutely no relationship to the local news of Bakersfield except possibly for the Mensa group, and that is still a stretch. As I used to tell my staff, if you cannot express what you have to say in EVERYDAY English, do not bother to say it. Most materials for all person's consumption are written at about the tenth grade reading level, if that.

 I know money is an issue, but please replace this contributing columnist with a syndicated columnist who writes in the language of the average reader of The Bakersfield Californian. It will definitely help to sell more papers. If not, then please move him back to the Opinion Page. You can pick up more local news by just reading the Yahoo news, Local, report.

— Marilyn Brown

Price: McDill used more than a few 50-cent words in Thursday’s column, I’ll give you that. But he was using them for satirical effect, I think, since he was discussing the “nethermost reaches of academia” — in this case the Kegley Institute of Ethics at CSU Bakersfield.
Once readers macheted their way through the dense verbal foliage of Thursday’s column, it should have been evident that McDill’s topic was indeed local: CSUB’s Wendy Wayne Awards. Recipients of the award, in its second year, were announced this month. I’ll speak with the honorees Monday on “First Look With Scott Cox.”

•••

Reader: From a Feb. 6 article, “... (T)he witness followed the suspect vehicle as it traveled through the neighborhood and eventually stopped at Haggin Oaks Park. Two suspects ran from the vehicle, discarding various objects ... They were taken into custody after they tried to get away by running through a pond.”

This makes little sense. I presume the suspects were being chased by police but there wasn't a word in the story describing a police chase, including details about how the police were alerted, at what point the police chase began, if there was a car pursuit, etc. I doubt police were already in Haggin Oaks Park just waiting for suspects to arrive.

Leaving out pertinent facts ... has long been a problem at the Californian but it seems worse since (former Executive Editor) John Arthur departed.

 — John Sweetser

Price: Hey, what do you mean by that last crack? As for short narratives involving law enforcement that may seem erroneous or incomplete, read on.

•••
Reader: In the Feb. 10 edition of The Bakersfield Californian there was a short article in the "Local Public safety" section about a man who was shot and killed in "East Bakersfield.” This was also posted on the online edition of The Californian. It reports this occurred in the 5000 block of Weedpatch Highway. The other local news outlets reported this story and said it happened in the 5600 block of Weedpatch Highway, near the city of Lamont. I am very familiar with this area and cannot understand how some reporter would call this area "East Bakersfield.” Did whoever wrote this story even know the local area?

— Brad Roark

Price: The article was based on a verbatim description of the location as described in a Feb. 9 “Sheriff News Release.” It read that Enrique Velasquez was found deceased in the “5000 Block of Weedpatch Hwy, Bakersfield, CA.” That’s how it appeared in our print editions, but the Sheriff subsequently sent out an amended press release and the information was corrected in our digital editions. I don’t know if local TV stations reported the location erroneously and then corrected it in later broadcasts and web postings, as we did, but I do know we’re the only local daily news organization that preserves errors, whether they’re source errors or our errors, in print, where they may be referenced in perpetuity.

Our reporter’s addition of “East Bakersfield,” while not technically correct, strikes me as a slight improvement on the Sheriff’s initial description, because the location is most assuredly not “Bakersfield,” as was indicated in the press release. The area of the incident is actually about halfway between Lamont and Highway 58. The Sheriff’s amended press release referred to it as Lamont — even though it’s some distance from what most would consider the boundary of that unincorporated community.

This brings up a bigger issue: For all but the most significant breaking crime stories, we routinely republish law enforcement’s press releases with only minor editing. That’s especially true on weekends, when we are not fully staffed. Don’t be shocked to see this happen now and then in the print edition. However, such errors should be rare in our digital editions, where we have the same advantage as our competitors: We can fix errors promptly.

•••

Reader: Here's my chance to see if you are a hands-on kind of guy. From your history on the Letters Page, it seems like a possibility, distressing as my visits to that page have sometimes been. In the Saturday paper, the comic Wumo is written by Wulff and Morgenthuler. It's ordinarily signed by Wulff and Morgenthaler.

It has reminded me of Lynn Johnson, who writes For Better or For Worse. Lynn Johnston does it on Sundays. Good of her, I think. Everybody needs a day off.

You may not know it, but I was responsible for Fred Bassett becoming Fred Basset. And for Hagar losing his umlaut. And a few other things. Comics are kind of important, and accuracy is too.

The real test, though, is the advertising. On page A2 of (the Feb. 15) paper, a Local Smile Artist is "seaking" individuals for something or other. This is at least the third time this ad has appeared. I keep hoping it will correct itself.

Early on in John Arthur's reign, I wrote to him and asked for the name of the person responsible for the content of the ad pages. Something like the position formerly held by Sally Ellis and De McCallister. He never responded, leaving me with the impression that there is no-one currently taking that role.

Because of my griping, Bill Ray Tile instantly changed their copy to offer their services Every Day, instead of Everyday. That made me feel very kindly toward them. Jim Burke Ford refused, and they continue with their error to this day.

— Larry Dunn

Price: Larry, you are one picky guy — exactly the sort of picky guy we need to hear from periodically. I appreciate that you’re picky with a sense of humor, a trait not shared by all of our esteemed nit-pickers (see above).

The titles over our comics are from templates prepared by our Orlando, Fla.-based contractor. The Lynn Johnston/Johnson error had been previously caught and corrected. This time around we were a little more terse in our request that that error (along with Morgenthaler/Morgenthuler) be fixed. This excuse is not intended to absolve us of checking this kind of stuff, though. It’s ultimately on us.

Spelling and usage errors drive me crazy too, no matter whether they appear in advertising or news articles. I will be “seaking” answers on how we might improve our processes to reduce these problems.

Incidentally, what exactly did you do with Hägar the Horrible’s umlaut? I’ve always been of the opinion that people get to spell their names however they want, no matter how ignorant it may make them appear, and I think that should apply to their hand-drawn creations, too. I’ll bet Dik Browne agrees.

•••

Reader: This morning (02/16) I purchased my last copy of The Bakersfield Californian. Why? Because of what’s Not in it. It seems Mr. Price hasn’t done a good job of reading his newspaper to see what is, or isn’t, in it ... I’ve always enjoyed reading the Sunday edition to get more than the brief recap you get on TV and, especially, to peruse the ad inserts to determine where I will concentrate my shopping for the upcoming week.

Alas and alack. Seems living outside of Bakersfield City limits determines what is/isn’t included. The only ad inserts we get in Arvin are from the sports retailers, occasionally one of the drug chains, and the usual “junk” ads that have nothing to do with local/national retailers, i.e. Target, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Office Depot and Office Max , etc. Even those junk ads have virtually disappeared.

I don’t understand why those ads are not included in the papers delivered to Arvin. I used to be involved in newspaper delivery in Phoenix, responsible for delivery to all retail outlets and machines in my assigned area, and it was routine policy that “all” ads were inserted in “all” papers, regardless of the delivery destination.

If The Californian ever decides to include shopping relevant ads again, I might consider buying it again. Heck, I might even become a subscriber.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to know what, if any, response there will be to this letter as I won’t be buying any future copies. But that’s OK. I feel confident that I will know what it is.

— Jack Anderson

Price: I asked John Wells, our Senior Vice President of Revenue & Marketing, to handle this one:

"We would like nothing more than to provide the preprinted inserts advertising to all home delivery subscribers and single copy racks. As the economic times had gotten tougher most of our advertisers (especially the major players) have cut back on their quantity to save costs. Consequently, areas that are farther from their outlets are eliminated.

“My suggestion is to make your concerns known to the local manager of these retail locations you would like to patronize, with your address, and they may decided to include Arvin and other county areas. Over the past few years we have reduced our cost to insert these advertisements in The Bakersfield Californian in hopes that the retailers would increase their distribution quantities. However, they say the cost of actually printing the extra insert is prohibited for their return on investment."

•••

Price: Jennifer Self’s article (“Plants to make you gasp,” Feb. 16) on botanist Maynard Moe, the longtime Cal State Bakersfield professor who spoke Feb. 20 to the California Native Plant Society, made some people happy.

Reader: We had over 80 people attend Dr. Moe's presentation last night! He did an excellent job — as I had expected — and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Thanks again for the great article. I think it was a real service to the community to see a preview of his talk in the paper and for your readers to attend a free presentation. We usually have from 25 to 30 attend, so we're hoping for new members.

— Patty Gradek

Price: Seems Dr. Moe is quite the hot ticket. Another reader wrote in to say she’d like to hear him give his spiel about exotic plants to interested parties in Taft.

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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