Steve Petzold | Reflecting on Hill Coverage

Letters to the Editor
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I hope The Signal will take time to reflect upon its own journalistic mistakes (during the time leading up) to the resignation of former-Rep. Katie Hill. 

While reading the Nov. 3, Tim Whyte column, “Owned Mistakes and Flawed Political Strategy,” this reader had the sense that The Signal’s staff was standing on the sidelines watching the story develop, when they should have been in the game reporting. By the time the story played out, The Signal came in and wanted to play Monday morning quarterback.

The beginning of the end was Oct. 10, when RedState reporter Miranda Morales released a story that Katie’s estranged husband (had alleged) that his wife Katie had been sleeping with her finance director for the last year. This article was a week before the post in RedState by Jennifer Van Laar that contained “the pictures” of Katie and her female campaign aide.

As the paper of record in the Santa Clarita Valley it would seem to me that a reporter would have contacted the estranged husband after the Oct. 10 article in RedState to assess the credibility of his story, and then place a call to Katie Hill for comment. 

Alternatively, what would the Signal staff had done if presented with a credible story, with or without being shown the pictures? Would they have discounted the story as the self-serving actions of the “vengeful” estranged husband or unseemly behavior by a political operative?

Perhaps the publication of the pictures in RedState could have been avoided if The Signal had noticed Katie with a request for comment that allowed her to address the situation in a timely manner.

The RedState article of Oct. 18 was largely a followup to that from Oct. 10 that included texts and pictures to confirm the veracity of the allegations made by the estranged husband. It was only after the article by Jennifer Van Laar on Oct. 18 that the national press took interest in the story and the dominoes began to fall in on Katie Hill.

I hope The Signal finds the courage to aggressively pursue news stories in the Santa Clarita Valley. It is a shame that they often seem to self-censor when presented a difficult storyline.

The rise and fall of Katie Hill plays out like a Greek tragedy. An active and engaged press could have provided some guardrails to prevent her running off the road and the personal and public disaster that ensued.

Steve Petzold

Santa Clarita

Editor’s note: Mr. Petzold’s letter makes multiple incorrect assumptions about The Signal’s reporting and internal decision-making processes on the Katie Hill story.

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