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On column writing and censorship

From the desk of the editor

Posted: July 4, 2008 12:17 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2008 5:03 a.m.

I had an interesting exchange with one of The Signal's fairly regular columnists last week: He accused me of censorship.

I had asked him not to keep writing on the same topic, and when he sent in yet another column on that topic (which he still denies was the case), I didn't publish it.

Hence his claim of censorship. Or, as he put it so colorfully in one e-mail, "worming out."

For the record, censorship occurs when an outside agency, such as the government, steps in and says, "You can't print that." Nothing will get a journalist's back up faster.

When the editor decides "I won't print that," it's called editing.

As a community newspaper, The Signal gives priority to local voices on the Opinion page, and during the past year it's been my goal to present a variety of views here.

One of a newspaper's duties is to provide a public forum for all points of view represented in its coverage area. I consider myself successful when people on both sides of an issue accuse me of catering to the other side.

Because of our increased circulation on Fridays, I'd like to extend an invitation to our new readers to let their voices be heard on these pages.

But first, I want to say "thank you" to our local regular or semi-regular columnists. Taking on a weekly - or even semi-weekly or monthly - column is no easy task, especially when it's not part of your job description.

These loyal writers - and I include the disgruntled member in their ranks - do research, compose arguments, labor over grammar and punctuation, struggle to meet deadlines, and sometimes endure criticism and prodding from me - all to bring you their weekly messages.

Then, sometimes, they're called names by readers.

These columnists do it all for absolutely nothing except whatever satisfaction they derive from being heard on matters that they care passionately about, though several have said their satisfaction comes in part from being posted here on our Web site.

In many cases, they thank me for the opportunity to take on such a daunting task.

The value these columnists add to The Signal is in many ways immeasurable.

In today's Opinion page you see "Right About Now," a column written by local Republicans about national issues. Another Republican column, this one aimed at local issues, runs on Mondays. The Democrats own Tuesdays, and Wednesday is "Full Speed to Port," a column whose author describes it as middle of the road, though most conservatives would disagree. Thursday is set aside for environmentalists.

Saturdays I run a syndicated voice for the Hispanic community, since I have no regular local contributor for Hispanic issues. (I would welcome a local columnist to discuss these issues.) On Sundays I try to offer a variety of views on a specific topic.

Over and over, these columnists' varied points of view have prompted public dialogue on important issues that affect everyone who lives in the Santa Clarita Valley. This is indeed a service to the community.
I thank each of them for their diligence and devotion.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you, The Signal has a number of ways you can contribute your voice to our pages and Web site. The simplest is to write a letter to the editor, which should be no more than 300 words long and include your name, phone number and address.

Send you letter to

If 750 words is more of a task you'd like to handle, you may have the makings of a columnist. Click here for our guide to "How to write a column for The Signal." Send your column to

We welcome your voice.

n n n

Let's discuss next Sunday
Here's a topic for discussion in The Signal's July 13 Opinion pages: An urban center in the Santa Clarita Valley.

An editorial published in last Friday's Signal apparently alarmed those residents who opposed The Avenues project, which has gone back to the drawing board.

The only specific "urban center" mentioned in the editorial referred to the plans of Victor Gruen, drawn up for The Newhall Land and Farming Company in the early 1960s. That urban center was to be located near Magic Mountain Parkway and McBean Parkway.

At the time, that area was an expanse of onion fields.

Now largely developed, the SCV may have to retroactively locate an urban center if one is deemed desirable. That would obviously be more difficult, but not impossible.

Our brethren in the San Fernando Valley, who don't immediately leap to mind when thinking of planned developments, managed a quite credible job with Warner Center.

But Warner Center is 920 acres. The Smiser Mule Ranch site is 37.

Warner Center adjoins commercial areas and a community college campus. The Smiser Mule Ranch adjoins several residential areas.

But there are single-family homes near Warner Center, and no doubt those residents opposed locating a great big planned development in their lazy, ranch-house-style side of the valley.

Interstate 5's proximity to the Smiser Mule Ranch makes it an attractive site for denser development.
We'll have to see what the planners come up with in their revised proposal. But the site is clearly too small for a true urban center as envisioned by Gruen.

So what do you think of an urban center in the Santa Clarita Valley?

Send your comments to with a "Sunday opinion" notation in the subject field.

Lila Littlejohn is editor in chief of The Signal. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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