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Ian Lamont: The Signal: Building on 90 years of news tradition

From The Signal Publisher

Posted: January 3, 2009 9:34 p.m.
Updated: January 4, 2009 4:59 a.m.
 
It has been a little more than 100 days since I was named publisher of The Signal. In that time, I have consistently heard two things from passionate Signal readers: "Don't screw up my paper"; and "Please make The Signal relevant again."

The short answers are: "I won't" and "We will do our share, but we need you to do your share."

If you have had great mentors in your life, then you are blessed, as I have been. One of my mentors told me that every publisher should put his or her stamp on his or her newspaper.

So I will slowly put my stamp on The Signal. I have great respect for the power of being the publisher of a daily newspaper that puts out more than 250,000 copies each week.

The Signal's objectives are simple. We will put news coverage of the city of Santa Clarita and the unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley ahead of all other coverage.

Our focus will be local - city and county government, education and local schools, the environment, law enforcement, community health care, our growth, our neighborhoods, water and other issues that directly affect our readers.

The local issues and news we cover you cannot get from other sources or from anywhere on the Web other than The-Signal.com.

But The Signal's definition of local and community news may differ from that of some because we are always asking: "What is in the best interest of the valley we serve?"

That question puts The Signal in a unique position.

The Signal will place community service and aggressive editorial leadership ahead of all other goals. We will practice "community journalism" by tackling local issues and information and reporting in a way that gives our readers valued content.

The Signal has redoubled its commitment to covering and speaking out on critical local issues - aggressively, without fear or favor - and taking controversial positions when a community is divided and leadership is needed.

At times, it will be necessary for us to publish a controversial story, or take a strong opinion, even when a community consensus is heavily on the other side.

Those times are never easy, but they are necessary. Making The Signal relevant again means always doing what is proper and right, rather than what is expedient.

The Signal will neither shrink from controversy nor duck a battle that needs waging. We will be a staunch community advocate and local cheerleader when it is appropriate and deserved - and, when necessary, a critic.

Readers who become upset with us when they disagree with our positions need only live for a time in a community with a newspaper that hides from controversy and avoids battles to realize that, in the end, it is the community that suffers from such cowardice.

Pray that your newspaper gets you emotionally invested in a local issue and gets your dander up from time to time. And when it does, give it hell!

Then give thanks you live in a country where expressing yourself is a guaranteed right, and in a community where those rights are exercised regularly.

The Signal will strive to this standard: "To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful" (Edward R. Murrow).

Every day The Signal publishes the equivalent content of a paperback novel. That's a lot of local stories and a lot of different opinions. It is also a lot of local knowledge, and that is both power and value.

Signal readers choose to be informed. In a free and democratic society, that is healthy and is a cornerstone of our country.

In my more than 30 years in newspapers, I spent 12 years on the financial side and now more than 20 years in operational management. I started in this business in lower Manhattan as the 32nd accountant in a 32-member department.

I approach what I intend to be the last job of my career with a great sense of gratitude and passion for the privilege of being at the helm of a terrific daily newspaper, a multimedia company and a consolidated,
interactive Web operation in one of the finest communities in the country.

It took me more than 50 years to come to Southern California. I congratulate all of you who made it here sooner. Smart decision.

I am convinced the SCV's challenges can be met with strong leadership. But the integral role of informing and providing information and knowledge to SCV leaders will come from The Signal and our Web site.

After all, it is not bloggers who will be trusted and respected to provide solid, interesting, valued and accurate reporting. It will still be the professional journalists in the working media. Our role will always be to produce that respected and valued content.

You would be surprised how many media executives are now distribution-neutral when it comes to delivering this content to readers. Print, Kindle, PDA, Web sites, etc. - the future key will be how to guarantee economic success through a profitable business model.

For now it is the printed newspaper that still captures market shares of 40 percent to 60 percent; that pays journalists to sit through city council meetings to report on local issues; that takes long and tedious reports and turns them into stories that are comprehensible to the reader. Your local bloggers cannot be expected to provide this level of service and information.

In February, The Signal will celebrate its 90th anniversary. The Signal has been and will continue to be the newspaper of record for the SCV. Since 1919, The Signal has chronicled the story of our time and of our valley.

All of us at The Signal will do our share of publishing seven days per week of local, local and more local content. Every day The Signal will have valued content, features, photos, columns, opinion and valued advertising from local businesses to get the word out about sales, money-saving opportunities and unique products and promotions.

Our local businesses, owned by your neighbors, are counting on you to support them.

All 100-plus employees at The Signal, who are also your neighbors, are committed to making The Signal more relevant than ever.

We want you, our readers, to hold us to the standards and goals outlined in this column. But being relevant is a two-way street.

You want to continue to live in one of the finest communities in the region. Then stay informed and give back to the community that gives you so much. Get involved in the local issues and community causes that fuel your passion and enthusiasm.

How can you do that? Read The Signal, listen to KHTS, visit respected local Web sites. Reading The Signal is easy. For $6.25 a month, or about 20 cents a day, The Signal will be delivered to your door by 5:30 a.m. What else can you get delivered to your door by 5:30 a.m. every day for 20 cents? Call (661) 259-1000 to start your Signal home delivery.

In fact, I promise if you read The Signal every day, you will know so much, you will think you are 16 again. (That was a joke for all the parents out there who can remember when they knew everything).

Ten years from now, you can bet you will be invited to the biggest party in SCV history when The Signal celebrates its 100th anniversary. In the meantime, join all of us at The Signal as we continue to serve our customers and the Santa Clarita Valley.

Mark Twain foreshadowed our commitment to publishing a valued daily newspaper when he said, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

Ian Lamont is publisher of The Signal newspaper and the Web operation The-Signal.com.

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