When I first moved to the Santa Clarita Valley thirty-seven years ago there was a mighty local newspaper, The Signal. Back then, about a third or more of SCV residents subscribed to that paper and many others picked it up at stores and the coin operated newspaper boxes that are still visible in front of some eateries. That paper was truly the eyes and ears of our valley communities.  

In those days, the newspaper had a professional staff of reporters who wrote balanced stories that were pertinent to our community. Those stories were researched, investigated, and then vetted by seasoned editors. As a reader, you would get the whole story, both sides, with correct facts and quotes. Those days are long gone.

Today, The Signal is a faint shadow of what it once was with its circulation tanking compared to the more than tripling of the valley population in the last twenty years. The only thing apparently keeping it operating is income from publishing legal notices. If it were not for that revenue the paper likely would have collapsed years ago. It has been slowly drained of its valuable assets through a succession of owners and publishers; the printing presses sold off, real estate sold off, and the human capital whittled away—the experienced journalists gone making way for inexperienced cub reporters, fresh from college, cutting their chops writing stories fraught with misquotes, inaccurate facts, and weak prose.

I have written periodically about the paper and the slippery slope of irrelevance that it has been sliding down for well over a decade. I’ve sat on the sidelines in recent months and have listened to political leaders complain about baseless stories or hear from business leaders that are fed-up with the tactics of the paper. I’ve even mused at the annual top 51 list that the editors of this pathetic newspaper put together and the fact that some people actually lobby to get on it. It’s laughable.

But all of that pales in comparison to Chuck Champion, one of the new owner/publishers of The Signal, when he went on a verbal tirade at a recent Santa Clarita City Council meeting. I had to watch the video three times, in disbelief, to see him attack the City Council, Councilman Bill Miranda, and make what appears to be false and ridiculous accusations. It was an embarrassment. After watching that video, I picked up the phone and called several well-respected individuals in our community and asked some pointed questions to understand why the publisher The Signal went off the rails publically at the meeting. Essentially, Champion may have thrown what could be a fatal blow at his own newspaper, which he was trying to revive off its death bed.

Champion appears to believe that his newspaper matters and was upset when Bill Miranda didn’t show up for a Signal sponsored candidate forum. That forum was supposed to showcase those who were vying to finish out Danta Acosta’s council term, after he was elected to the State Assembly. The no-shows only reinforces how irrelevant The Signal has become to SCV. No political candidates need to show up to a forum sponsored by a newspaper that less than 3% of the community reads. The Signal is completely extraneous, no longer connected to the community at large.  

Add to that the fact that local political losers Gloria and Bruce Fortine are aligned with Champion. They appear to be using the paper to exact some kind pay back or revenge against the SCV political establishment. They blame the loss of their school board seats on the local GOP machine. In actuality, they have burnt their political bridges to the ground with many around SCV because of their questionable behavior and actions. But that hasn’t stopped Gloria Mercado-Fortine from looking to run for a Santa Clarita City Council seat in the next election cycle in 2018. Bruce Fortine, for his part, is now on The Signal board of directors which means that they are both using the local paper to go after their political rivals. Not very balanced.

Champion has gone on the attack against State Senator Scott Wilk with fraudulent claims of manipulating the local political machine. That is no surprise since Gloria Mercado-Fortine is a political foe of Wilk. But the fact is, Wilk is a shrewd political strategist and has worked extremely hard for every elected position he has won. He knows how to run a campaign and walks his districts, going door to door to win votes. Once in office, he is working for his constituents and it shows in the work he has done in Sacramento.

That has not been the case for Gloria Mercado-Fortine who has a checkered record of self-dealing. For example, there have been serious questions raised and still appear to be unanswered about the possible conflicts of interest Gloria Mercado-Fortine had when she was a Hart School Board Member. So much so that many of the issues raised about her over the years didn’t pass the common-sense smell test with the average person; too many have had the appearance of a conflicts-of-interest. Now, Chuck Champion has Bruce Fortine on The Signal board of directors and will likely be supporting Gloria Mercado-Fortine for City Council next year. Conflicts-of-interest? Further examples of the duplicitous nature of the Fortines and there out-for-themselves mentality; they appear to be ethically challenged.

What bothers me most, is local businesses supports this paper. Why? If the circulation is so pathetic and it reaches such a small slice of the valley population, what’s the point of spending ad dollars there? The fact that these businesses do spend advertising dollars at the paper makes them complicit in the embarrassing diatribe by Champion at the Santa Clarita City Council meeting. Is that what the car dealers and other business owners want to be associated with?

I think that Ruth and Scott Newhall, former owners of The Signal, are turning over in their graves by the demise of the once mighty Signal. They would certainly be shocked at how low the circulation has plummeted and even further aghast at the papers diminished integrity. Our valley used to have a community newspaper, but we haven’t for a very long time. The succession of owners and publishes, since the Newhall’s owned it, have lost complete sight of the word “community.” Instead, the latest owners have apparently turned it into their own piggy bank to finance a wedding and are now seem to be mounting an effort to try and sway an election. All of it transparent and silly.  

I suspect that those still buying the Signal are using it to line the bottom of their birdcages. Especially with the unfounded accusations that Champion leveled at Councilman Bill Miranda. The root of that is from Miranda not attending The Signal’s candidate forum. That only proves one thing, Miranda was smart enough to know that anything The Signal sponsors is irrelevant. Going forward, candidates should wise up and realize that social media and digital platforms are where most valley residents are consuming their local news not in an ink stained wad of masticated wood pulp that was once a venerable community newspaper.

Local candidates should avoid those media sponsored forums in favor of open town halls sponsored by an organization like the SCV Chamber, with questions from informed individuals. As far as I am concerned none of the candidates should respond to Chuck Champion’s vitriolic written or verbal spewing. By ignoring it, The Signal’s irrelevance will be further galvanized as nothingness.

Cue the music for Our Little Town.

Dave Bossert- Commentary

Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on several boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.