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Signal nets three national awards

Posted: July 9, 2009 7:59 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Signal netted three awards in the National Newspaper Association’s 2009 Better Newspapers Contest, it was announced Thursday.

Former staff writer and veteran journalist Jim Holt placed first for the Community Service Award, daily division; second for Best Investigative or In-depth Story or Series for daily papers with a circulation of less than 16,000; and third for Best Feature Series for daily papers with a circulation of less than 16,000.

The community service award was for the June 29, 2008, story “Veterans Department says ex-Marine owes nearly $4,000,” about Canyon Country resident Carl Diekman.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had cut off the World War II veteran’s monthly $84 check and was demanding $3,936 it said he had been overpaid in benefits over the years.

The VA eventually relented after Diekman’s story drew widespread support and Congressman Howard  P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, took up the veteran’s cause.

Diekman’s was a story “screaming to be told,” said Holt, 54. “I was so humbled to be in the presence of that man.”

Holt’s second-place award was for the multi-part series “The Failed Dream of Las Lomas.” Over weeks of reporting between February and March 2008, Holt exposed that developer Dan Palmer did not own all of the property he said he did for his planned 5,000-home Las Lomas community in the hills on the north side of the Newhall Pass.

Plans for controversial development eventually fizzled out.

“I wanted to set the record straight and start from scratch,” he said. “The reality was more damning than the gossip.”

Holt’s final award was for a series that asked the question “How does drinking water get to the SCV?”

“It was really an eye-opener for me and I’m glad that other people thought so, too,” he said.

The Valencia resident has won 30 awards for his journalistic work in print and TV.

“I’ve been doing the same thing since I was 16,” he said. “(Journalism) is like getting paid to live life.”



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