The Bakersfield Californian
A photo on Facebook does not equal an endorsement
Reader: This is their updated cover photo? Wow! Just wow! I would have the same reservations if freaking Ronald Reagan was on the cover. This is not unbiased journalism. This is a tragedy!
— Cody Gaines
Reader: This is hilarious. Bravo, Californian! Watch them melt.
— Jose Luis Perez
Reader: There isn’t even a news article to go along with this Newsom love photo?
— George Gard
Reader: ......How much did you win on this dare?
— Michelle Marie Katelyn Lyon
Reader: Are you kidding me? Does anyone at you paper have a spine?
— Andrew Simpson
Reader: Haha!! Too scared to come to Bakersfield... good decision.
— Madeline Trino-Evans
Peterson: All of the above comments — and many more — were posted on The Californian’s Facebook page in regard to a cover photo we posted of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s visit to Arvin on Monday.
The governor was there to announce that Kern County and the Central Valley would begin receiving larger allotments of COVID-19 vaccines. According to reporter Sam Morgen’s story, (yes, there was a story, George) Kern will be receiving 78 percent more vaccines than it has been, while the Central Valley as a whole will receive 58 percent more.
That’s news, whether you like Newsom and his policies or not. (Many people do not. Signatures are being gathered and a proposed recall effort appears headed to the ballot.)
Publishing a photo on our Facebook page — or in the newspaper or our website — does not constitute an endorsement of the person, his policies or his actions. Other elected officials have also been cover photos. For example, then-President Trump had a prominent place on our Facebook page when he was in Bakersfield last year. It was news, whether you support Trump or not.
We regularly switch out the cover photo on The Californian’s Facebook page. Just this week, after Newsom’s visit, we also displayed photos of a teacher receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in a middle school gym (news because a clinic was arranged to come to a school site as parents seek more in-person instruction) and a photographer capturing the beauty of the almond blossoms in Kern (a pretty photo, and information about what is happening this week in local agriculture).
Sometimes the photo selection is made because of the news value. Other times we’re simply displaying a beautiful or compelling photo taken by our staff members, most often photojournalist Alex Horvath.
There were no “dares” to use a photo of Newsom, Michelle. And with my spine fully intact, Andrew, I will move onto the next question.
Reader: It’s unfortunate that The Bakersfield Californian chose to eliminate the comment section below its articles, especially in such a confusing and scary time for us all, in so many different ways.
Why the censorship? What are you afraid of? Yes, comments can get hot and heavy between commenters and insulting when aimed at The Californian, but so what? That’s what freedom of speech is, not the one-way street that you at The Californian have made it, but a four-lane highway with off-ramps and rest stops, all along the way.
My request to you is that you bring back the Comment section and allow your readers to, once again, post their opinions about you, the article, and each other, freely and without censorship. When freedom of speech becomes a one-way street, it will most likely be a path to nowhere.
— Judith Randall
Peterson: I have no intention at this time to restore story commenting on Bakersfield.com. As I have covered before, extensively, the comments there devolved into back-and-forth sniping among writers — usually the same few every day — and rarely offered substantive debate, comment or thought. The comments often had nothing to do with the content of the story!
We offer plenty of ways to comment: letters to the editor and Community Voices that are published in the Opinion section; comments on Facebook (see above!); letters to Sound Off (I’m answering you here!); and calls and emails to reporters and editors. I’ve found over the years that people who use these methods actually use their names (we require it for published letters to the editor and Community Voices) and address the actual content of news coverage.
Judith, you bring up freedom of speech. I figure you are referring to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Congress can’t abridge freedom of speech. Newspapers can and do decide what to print. And trust me, we provide readers many forums to make their points known.
Reader: A message to anonymous who left his comment on the newsroom floor. It was a pleasant relief to read the opinions of our students in The Californian.
These folks may be our future editors, congressmen, educators or who knows, maybe even president. I for one get tired of reading from the opinions of the same people over and over again and welcome “fresh blood.” Bring it on, students, bring it on.
— James McCall, not afraid to give
Peterson: Yes, speaking of letting readers and community members make their points known ... that includes high school students, as addressed in last week’s Sound Off.
Thanks, James, for your note of support of our inclusion of the writings of young people in the Opinion section. I strongly believe we need to hear the views of our high school students, who have so much to teach those of us who are a bit — or a lot — older.
Reader: A shoutout for Thursday’s Opinion page. Thank you for consistently and relentlessly publishing both sides of the story on a day-by-day basis.
Keep up the good work.
— John O’Connell
Peterson: Glad that day worked for you, John, as we share a variety of opinions.
Executive Editor Christine Peterson answers your questions and takes your complaints about The Californian’s news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield. com. Please include your name and phone number.