Monday, March 12, 2012

A single column

l refer to your lead piece in Monday's Opinion page, "Sex and the GOP", by Aledandra Petri of the Washington Post. Is this jackass article your considered contribution to the great challenges that are facing the USA today? Where is your opinion on the sustained attacks by both Democrats and Republicans on the jobs and incomes of ordinary people? Apparently it doesn't bother you that hospitality and agricultural workers have to survive on derisory rates of pay in our expensive area. What have you to say about Obama's statement a few weeks ago that extra-judicial killings of American citizens are justified in the name of the anti-terrorism "war?"   When Nixon ordered illegal wiretaps against his opponents, there was outrage in the press. Today, a president can order killings at will and it doesn't raise a murmur! Aren't you concerned at all that the Constitution is slowly being shredded in the interests of international corporations?

 Perhaps, as a British native, I was naive in thinking that Americans were proud of their Constitution, which was for years the envy of the world. Now I see they are more interested in personalities and who goes to bed with whom. Wake up, people. You haven't got much time left.

Brian Ashurst

Brian: Just as you can't determine a newspaper's editorial position on any one issue by reading one edition of the newspaper, you can't expect any one column to tackle more than one issue. The one you mention is a lighthearted look at the GOP's moral positioning in this election, and publishing it does not for a moment diminish our concern about jobs, inadequate pay or extra-judicial killings.

Royal Calkins

Choosing content

When the Herald opted to discontinue printing stock prices, then editor Joe Livernois justified his decision by stating that the paper's revenues were continuing to decline and that the prices were always available via the Internet.

Is it time to revisit this policy? Aren't there other items that are printed that are much less newsworthy?   For example, in March 6th's edition, several columns were devoted to point spreads for college basketball games, for NBA games, and for NHL matches. Plus this critical nugget: "1994- Jay Sigel stages the biggest comeback in PGA and Senior Tour history, rallying from 10 strokes behind to win the GTE Seniors Classic in a four-hole playoff with Jim Colbert."

Really, that Oral Roberts is favored by 9 points over Southern Utah is of interest to more people than the closing price for 3M or Bank of America?

David Swanson

David, we'd love to print everything available every day, but there are limits, so we have to pick and choose. I'm sure everyone who wants a specific thing in could find an example of something else that could be jettisoned to make room. I, for one, would like to have detailed results of water polo competitions included most days. Our feeling when we stopped running the stock listings was that we were using a lot of space, and a lot of paper, to publish something that was easily available to most of our readers elsewhere. When we err, which we will, it usually will be on the side of providing unique content.

Royal Calkins

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Well Sir, I applaud your efforts to bring the paper back in line to where it should be. Addressing local issues and creating a hometown atmosphere in our paper is a much better model than rarely hitting the streets and assuming that the wire service will provide everything, everyone on the Peninsula wants to know. We have plenty of places to find that information if we want it, and on that occasion, I find the Herald deplorably duplicitous. I look forward to the progress you will make for the benefit of all those that look forward to finding the information we don’t afford the time to collect on our own. 

David: I'm hoping you meant duplicative and not duplicitous, but we prefer to be neither. Finding the right mix of local and wire news is a daily challenge, and we're hoping to eventually get it just right. Thanks

Monday, February 20, 2012

You found it

Dearest readers: This is the place to make suggestions for Herald news coverage, to ask questions, yell at us, send us love notes, whatever. I, editor Royal Calkins, will respond to most of the civil comments and you, of course, should feel invited to respond to the response.
Got something to say? This is your chance.
Royal Cakins

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travels with The Herald

Our friend Marco has returned to work after watching his son play third base for the Mexicali team at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Readers might remember the column I wrote about my family's connection with Marco. The family gathered in El Centro for my mother's memorial service during the Labor Day weekend, and we dropped by Celia's Restaurant for lunch. Marco is one of the waiters at Celia's, and I was able to deliver a copy of the column to him.

He was still beaming from the experience in Williamsport, though returning from Pennsylvania proved a bit of an ordeal after Hurricane Irene closed the airports.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Man in Williamsport

The Mexicali Little League baseball team is on ESPN, slugging it out against Venezuela for a chance to advance to the finals. Little boys are mugging for the cameras and making amazing plays on the field. One of the happiest looking kids on the Mexicali team is my new favorite ballplayer, a shrimp named Vicente Bejarano. Number 3.

Vicente's father, Marco, was one of my mother's all-time favorite waiters. He works at a restaurant called Celia's, in El Centro, just across the border from Mexicali.

My mother wasn't herself the past several months, squeezed by the grip of Alzheimer's. But her companion, Darold, always made a point of "taking her out" every day to eat at restaurants where employees like Marco made her feel loved. Even on her worst days, Marco's brilliant smile cut through the fog of her fading consciousness.

Mom died last week. The family gathered in El Centro and, of course, we had lunch at Celia's.

Like the waiters and waitresses at all Mom's favorite spots, Marco teared up when he learned about our mother. Restaurant employees develop a special bond for their regulars and become part of the extended family. They take news like the death of Mom hard.

Later at lunch, Marco told us about his son, Vicente. The boy is in Williamsport, he said, representing Mexico at the Little League World Series.

Of course, Marco would have loved to be with him in Pennsylvania this week, but he couldn't afford the time off. His wife was there, though, and Marco got to watch his son play Mexicali's first game on ESPN against Chinese-Taipei. His excitement lifted our mourning spirits.

The next day, after the family spent the morning tending to Mom's final business, we checked in again with Marco at Celia's.

He was amped, his smile even more sublime. Regulars at the restaurant had collected enough money to send him to Williamsport. He'd get there in time to watch Mexicali's second game on Sunday.

He had no idea how he was going to get around once he arrived, how he'd pay the bills when he got back, but by God he was going to watch his son play. You never get a chance like that again.

My mother wasn't a born baseball fan, but she acquired the skill while raising six kids. She was a single mother, working a bunch of jobs but finding the time to root on her brood of little leaguers.

She showed up at all my games. She was there when my youngest brother, Tony, got shelled, in an all-star sectional final, by the first Mexicali team to earn a trip to Williamsport.

She never cared much for professional ballplayers. Her best baseball memories were scored at dusty little fields built for kids.

Near the end of her life, when Mom's children were scattered elsewhere and raising their own little leaguers, people like Marco were always there to smile for her. And now one of them was sacrificing a week's pay to watch his own boy play a game. Mom would've reached into her wallet to help, but she wasn't there, so we did.

On Sunday, we raced home to watch Mexicali's game against Japan, hoping to see Marco in the stands. In the fifth inning, an ESPN correspondent interviewed him, letting him share the story about the customers who got him to Williamsport.

There was that smile, that enthusiasm, that warmth, broadcast nationally and in HD.

It was like Mom and Marco had arrived in heaven at the same time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I've been slogging through my first Kindle novel, which means I'm getting adept at pushing buttons instead of turning pages.

Kindle is one of those hand-held electronic devices created to put bookstores out of business. With a Kindle, you can upload a book in the time it takes to back out of the driveway en route to the Border's.

Once your "book" is safely affixed to the memory chip on your electronic device, you may begin your reading experience. Reading a book on Kindle is like reading a book that took a more circuituous route — from pulp mill to printing press to bookstore — to produce. Except that it's different.

For my first Kindle experience, I selected Jonathan Franzen's latest, "Freedom."

Franzen follows the sad-sack Berglund family along its careening path to oblivion. The plot is rather trivial, along the lines of a routine romance novel, but Franzen's precise construction — and deconstruction — of the human dynamic is thrilling.

Whether read from a printed page or from a digital screen, the story doesn't change. I would have enjoyed "Freedom" equally had I purchased the book in poundage rather than in bytes.

On my Kindle, though, I can bookmark and highlight passages that are more easily retrievable, without dog-earring pages, without stickies or paper clips. My Kindle was a much more convenient travel companion, particularly on the plane, during my recent vacation.

Still, I am nagged by the diminishing status of the printed page.

I acknowledge and accept that my newspaper will eventually become a digital product, once the last of my generation has read its final newsprint obituary. Like Franzen's Walter Berglund, I am grateful that I can do my part to save a forest, if not a job at the pulp mill.

In fact, I am uncomfortable with the anti-labor inclinations implicit in electronic books. Paper is produced by men paid to wield chainsaws, to mix the brew at the mill. Traditional books are published on presses operated by human beings with mortgages and car payments. Traditional books are moved from points of origin to sales sites by truckers. Traditional books are sold from shops with atmosphere and with clerks who can point customers in the right direction.

More than that, though, a traditional book is a thing, something to keep, to return to, to trade, to give away, to donate. A full bookshelf serves as a proud monument to the memories and the wisdom imparted in volumes. Just as the great family photo must be enshrined in an album or on the mantle, and not in the limbo of a computer, the artful construction of words deserves its own special place.

I'm not sure my Kindle is that place.