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The Signal leads panel discussion

Community: Editorial Board answers questions of Valley Industrial Association

Posted: September 22, 2010 7:25 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The Signal Editorial Board, from left, Fred Trueblood, Morris Thomas, Leon Worden, Lila Littlejohn, Josh Premako and Publisher Ian Lamont, answer questions at the Valley Industrial Association luncheon held at the Valencia Country Club on Tuesday.

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Whether a reader agrees or disagrees with a position taken by a newspaper’s editorial board, the value that strong, vibrant media brings to a community is that it provides a forum for connecting citizens, business and government.
In exploring this topic, the Valley Industry Association (VIA) invited The Signal newspaper to its monthly luncheon Tuesday, and hosted a question-and-answer session with The Signal’s Editorial Board.

The Editorial Board is comprised of Ian Lamont, Morris Thomas, Lila Littlejohn, Fred Trueblood, Leon Worden and Josh Premako.

Lamont moderated the discussion, and both he and the panelists answered questions from the VIA membership.

As questions from the business organization’s members reflect questions that arise in the community at large, the meeting is printed as a source of information for readers. All board members contributed to the responses, so that the answers reflect a combination of the board’s collective input.

Do you have dissenting opinions, and publish dissenting columns?
We generally try to come to a consenting opinion. If we continue to dissent, any member of the Editorial Board has a right to publish their own position.

How do you handle public backlash?
We publish it via Letters to the Editor, including letters from those who criticize the newspaper. The purpose of the Opinion section’s content is to provide a public forum for the community. We believe everyone’s opinion is important. One of the functions of a newspaper is for everyone in a community to be able to express an opinion.

Controversial issues can go on for a long period of time. Is there ever a time when the board has changed a position?
Yes, we’re human. People change their opinions as more information becomes available. For example, although we didn’t specifically change a position, we were able to develop and form an opinion on the subject of chloride in water runoff as we began to learn so much more about it.

When there are several pressing issues, how do you decide which ones to address?
It’s not always easy; however, the most pressing topics tend to rise to the top themselves. We try to find the heartbeat, the issues of most concern. At times, a pressing topic can be preceded by a news article, and at other times, the issue selected and opinion formed leads to a story.

Increasingly, we invite people to meet with the Editorial Board, and opinion columns or stories evolve from those discussions.

Who writes the columns?
It’s a collective process. After the discussion is concluded, and opinion agreed upon, primarily Josh or Leon write a draft for the Editorial Board to review and edit so that the final column reflects the consensus of the board.

Is there a mechanism to contact the board regarding issues people want to discuss?
The public can contact anyone at The Signal. Our contact information is printed on page A2 of the newspaper every day, or you can find us online at http://newmedia.the-signal.com/contactus/.

Keep in mind the difference between contacting the newspaper with story issues, essentially tips turned into news stories, and editorial. With regards to editorial opinions, it is the responsibility of a newspaper editorial board to inform readers so that the public can form opinions.

Is there a regular schedule for the board meetings?
We meet Mondays at noon and Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.

How many people does it take to veto a topic?
There is no set number, as the goal is to reach consensus through debate, or allow dissenting opinions to be published. People can give compelling arguments for their point of view, which promotes spirited debate, but at the end of the day, we have to produce an opinion. We have to come to a conclusion as to what the nature of the column will be, and take a position as to what the call to action (to the community) should be.

Have you ever had to rebuff retaliation or attempts to influence the newspaper’s position?
There have been personal experiences, but it is a newspaper’s role to serve as the watchdog for the community on issues.

The role of an editorial board is to create accountability and provide transparency. We believe that debate, disagreement and taking positions are healthy exercises that can benefit the community.

Has there ever been an issue you wouldn’t take on?
I don’t think that’s ever happened.
VIA, a blend of industrial, commercial and service companies, represents business interests throughout SCV. Located at 25709 Rye Canyon Road, Suite 105, Valencia, VIA can be reached at 661 294-8088. More information is available at www.via.org/.

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