|Format||Tabloid Monday-Friday |
|Owner(s)||Sound News Media, Inc|
|Publisher||Sound News Media, Inc|
|Editor-in-chief||Christine L. Peterson|
|Founded||1866 (152-153 years)|
|Headquarters||1707 Eye Street|
Bakersfield, CA 93301
|Circulation||Monday-Saturday 26,000; Sunday 28,000|
The Bakersfield Californian is an independent, family-owned newspaper. It is the direct descendant of Kern County's first newspaper, The Weekly Courier, which was first published on August 18, 1866, in Havilah, California. At that time, Havilah, a small mining town about 50 miles northeast of the present site of Bakersfield, was the center of the 1864 gold rush, which brought the first major population influx to Kern County. The newspaper's name was later changed to The Havilah Weekly Courier.
As the mineral wealth of the area became depleted and the population moved southward toward Bakersfield, the newspaper also moved to Bakersfield in 1872, becoming The Kern County Weekly Courier. In 1876, the Courier merged with another Bakersfield newspaper, The Southern Californian, to form The Kern County Californian. Its name was changed to The Daily Californian in 1891 with the advent of daily publication. In 1897, the Kern County superintendent of schools, Alfred Harrell, purchased the newspaper.
Harrell gave The Bakersfield Californian its present name in 1907. In 1926, he moved the newspaper into its present location at 1707 Eye Street in downtown Bakersfield. In 1983, that structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. He served as editor and publisher of the newspaper until his death in 1946. Under Harrell's leadership, The Bakersfield Californian was recognized as one of California's finest newspapers, winning over 40 state and national awards for journalistic excellence. In 1969, Harrell became the 24th person to be named to the Newspaper Hall of Fame.
After Harrell's death, his wife, Virginia, became president of The Californian. She held that position until her death in 1954, when the Harrells' daughter, Bernice Harrell Chipman, assumed the position of president. She died in 1967.
Berenice Fritts Koerber, granddaughter of Alfred Harrell, was the president of The Bakersfield Californian from 1967 until her death in 1988. Under her leadership, the company constructed a $21 million publishing facility in 1984. It is named the Harrell-Fritts Publishing Center and is located at the company's airport business center near Meadows Field, 6.3 miles from the newspaper's downtown offices. It includes a modern offset press built by Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho Ltd of Japan. With the completion of the publishing facility, The Californian became one of the most technically advanced newspaper companies in the United States. News and advertising copy is transmitted to the facility using an underground fiber-optic cable system, the first of its kind for a newspaper in the United States.
In January 1989, Virginia F. Moorhouse, daughter of Berenice Koerber, was elected chairman and president of The Bakersfield Californian. She also serves as president of The Bakersfield Californian Foundation, a separate and independent entity established to provide financial assistance to non-profit charitable organizations in Kern County.
On August 17, 2009, the weekday editions of the Californian switched to a tabloid format.
In December 2014, Virginia "Ginny" Cowenhoven, daughter of Virginia F. "Ginger" Moorhouse, was named associate publisher, the fifth generation of the Harrell-Fritts family to serve in a leadership position at the locally owned media company.
In June 2016, Michelle Chantry, a member of The Californian's executive team since 2010, was named president, chief executive officer and chief financial officer.
On June 3, 2019, after 122 years of family ownership, the paper announced a deal with Canadian newspaper executive Steven Malkowitz to sell the paper to Sound News Media. The sale closed on July 1, whereupon printing operations in Bakersfield ceased and were moved to Antelope Valley, where Sound News Media owns the Antelope Valley Press. The Harrell-Fritts family retained ownership of The Californian building at 1707 Eye St.
On February 23, 2017, the paper won several awards at the 29th annual George F. Gruner Awards, which recognizes great print journalism in the San Joaquin Valley. Competing in the large-daily newspaper category:
o Reporters Harold Pierce, John Cox and Steven Mayer took first place in the News Story category for their coverage of the deadly Erskine Fire last summer.
o Senior Editors Jennifer Self and Robert Price placed first in the Feature Story category for their obituary of Merle Haggard, who died last April at age 79.
o Columnist Lois Henry won first place for column writing. Her entry included the piece "Kern supes preach trust, collaboration but scheme in secret," which took a critical look at behind-the-scenes discussions late last year to hire then-retiring County Administrative Officer John Nilon as a county consultant for upwards of six figures.
o Reporter Jeff Evans took first place in the Sports Story category for his piece on the late Jordan "Turk" Eliades, North High's first football coach. Eliades, who coached for 32 years, was also a WWII fighter pilot who was shot down and spent several months as a German POW at the end of the war.
o Photographer Felix Adamo placed first in the News Photo category for his photo of Jack Palme struggling with California Highway Patrol officers after going past a roadblock to get to his Squirrel Valley home during the Erskine Fire. Adamo also won an honorable mention in the Sports Photo category.
In February 2016, two staffers were honored at the 29th annual George F. Gruner Awards, Kelly Ardis won first place in the features category for her article "McFarland: Town up and running, even before film," (published Feb. 15, 2015). Ardis was one of three first-place finishers in the category.
Reporter John Cox received an honorable mention in the public service category.
In 2004, the paper received the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for Robert Price's January 2003 "Lords of Bakersfield" stories, which focused on the stabbing death of Assistant District Attorney Steven Tauzer and similar crimes committed over the previous 25 years, some of which reflected negatively on the newspaper's ownership and management. The articles were also recognized with California Newspaper Publishers Association and George F. Gruner awards, and publisher Ginger Moorhouse was named Publisher of the Year by Editor & Publisher magazine.