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 Bakersfiel­ 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

my name

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.

 ?? ALEX HORVATH / THE CALIFORNIA­N ?? Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the media during a visit to the Arvin Veterans Hall on Monday. The photo appeared on The California­n’s Facebook page.
ALEX HORVATH / THE CALIFORNIA­N Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the media during a visit to the Arvin Veterans Hall on Monday. The photo appeared on The California­n’s Facebook page.

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