Gary Horton | The Mighty Signal: Building a 100-Year Legacy

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Mighty Signal fans would have to be semi-comatose to have missed the newspaper’s 100-year birthday celebration. Amazingly, right here in little Santa Clarita Valley, a tiny news sheet, first put out to perhaps 500 country-folk residents, has wormed and turned and spun and pirouetted through great times and less – turning 100 years this month. And, that’s plenty old by newspaper standards when so many faded away to competing internet and multimedia “news.”

Along the way, this very local paper first known for sharing birthdays and the comings and goings of well-known local friends, turned it sights far much higher, aiming for a true legacy, seemingly out of reach for such a small publication in such a then “backwater” community. But the timing was right, and a visionary was waiting in the wings…

On Nov. 1, 1963, Scott
Newhall, prior editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, purchased The Signal, propelling the erstwhile but subdued paper into the arena of powerful, regional publications.

Said Scott Newhall at the time of the purchase:

“It is a privilege and a responsibility for me to be given a chance to share in this adventure facing all of us.

“As our beautiful valley burst with new life we dedicate this newspaper to the ultimate challenge of the American Free Press.

“It shall be yours — written about you and for you.

“It will fight your fights and proclaim your victories — and perhaps shed your tears.

“In short, we shall strive to make The Signal truly: ‘The best newspaper in the world — for the best people in the world.’”

Consider it: Aiming The Signal as “the best newspaper in the world…” Well, our moms always taught us to aim high, right? Apparently, Scott’s certainly did.

And along the way, greatness was in fact achieved, with many national awards, a few national scoops, Randy Wicks, who was well-known as a national political cartoonist, and generally known as, “That paper that always had something interesting, (or more or worse)… about someone, something, or someplace.” The Signal had a reputation, for good and bad, depending on how one viewed how they were covered in it!

Well now, 100 years after Edition One, Richard Budman has taken The Signal baton for another run at regional greatness. And I and everyone I know wish his and all The Signal writers and contributors the very greatest success. He’s got an admittedly uphill battle. Driveways have shifted under The Signal’s almost-daily delivery. Fewer people read these days. Even less read from printed anything. Flashing screens and shouting speakers seem to deliver what most people want to see and hear.

Still, it’s said to be true that, “Anybody doing anything, or caring about anything in the SCV, reads The Signal.” If there’s one legacy that’s carried on for the full 100 years of Signal life – it’s that one turns to The Signal for what’s importantly happening locally.

A year ago, The Signal was struggling and needed new blood. It needed an additional push. Legacies can be like that. It’s not always easy being a 100-year fixture. There’s always going to be bumps in the road. Thankfully, a knowledgeable Budman husband-wife team bellied up to The Signal bar, showed their cards and intentions, paid the tab, and today we again have full coverage with tons of reporters covering about everything that moves in the valley.

Including — the dirt under those unfortunate homes suffering in our local landslide last week. Nearly instantly, Signal reporters were on site with cameras and tape recorders and you’ve kept up with coverage ever since. And so it is with so many stories.

A legacy. Putting in the hard work, day after day, after year, after decade, after century. What an amazing legacy both for all owners and past owners of The Signal and everyone working there – but also for its supporters and readers who work so hard to build true community – within our locale.

In the end, the ultimate Signal legacy is that of building and facilitating true community in a fast-growing suburbia that otherwise could have been just an extension of the San Fernando Valley. “The Valley,” we’re not. Indeed, Santa Clarita is community. We’re knitted together, and The Signal is a big thread running through all of us.

The Signal story is motivation for all of us. Passed from generation to generation, the Signal mission has largely been accomplished, day after day. What an impact – and I wonder did the original founder Ed Brown ever think his effort would impact and change lives to this very day? One hundred years in?

Legacy. Can you and I look 100 years out? Can we imagine any action, initiative, idea, thought, effort we can personally make that will still be felt – or known, 100 years in? Can we think the long game?

That’s a fun game to roll around in our minds. “What can we possibly do that will make a positive contribution to our community and society all the way out, 100 years?” 

Perhaps a kind letter to a struggling niece or nephew? Supporting a starving kid someplace on the planet? Building a durable company focused on providing healthy and supportive jobs? Volunteering on causes known to be important and beneficial? Loving one another the way we’re supposed to, to ourselves build community and well-being? Saving hard and covering college for our kids and perhaps others, too? Teaching? Mentoring. Fathering and mothering like we know generations depend on it…

The impact The Signal has had on our community is indeed immeasurable. The Signal example stands and challenges each of us in this greatly benefited community. 

How shall we give back for the long-term?

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared on Wednesdays in The Signal since 2006.

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