Ender, Smyth named top newsmakers

Cameron Smyth News

Laurie Ender won Newsmaker of the Year for 2008 because of her grass-roots victory in the Santa Clarita City Council race, and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth was named Newsmaker of the Year for 2009 due to his success in the gridlocked California Legislature, during the 13th annual Santa Clarita Valley Press Club awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.

The Santa Clarita City Council won the Most Controversial award during the lighthearted event, during which former Signal General Manager Tim Whyte mock-chided the council for the Decoro Road restriping debacle and what he called its “The Sopranos” approach to handling businesses in the Newhall Redevelopment area.

Not to be outdone, City Councilman Frank Ferry defended the council vociferously and declared, “If that’s controversial, then I’m a proud city councilman!” mimicking Councilman Bob Kellar’s recent speech at a rally against illegal immigration.

Kellar sauntered to the microphone and deadpanned, “As usual, I’m speechless.”

The event held every year but one since 1997, honors Randy Wicks, a nationally recognized editorial cartoonist at The Signal, who died suddenly in 1996. The event raises scholarship funds to help students who study in First Amendment-related fields.

Traditionally drawing many of the community’s movers and shakers, Newsmakers went on hiatus last year and re-emerged this year more streamlined, with a humorous theme and with some new awards under the leadership of SCV Press Club President Michele Buttelman, The Signal’s features and entertainment editor.

Emcee Josh Premako, The Signal’s business, and opinion page editor, tossed barbs at local notables throughout the fundraiser held Friday evening.

“That was a lot of pomp and circumstance to open with,” Premako quipped, “and it was great, believe me, from the Pledge of Allegiance to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to Cameron Smyth’s hair.

“To be honest, I wanted to piggyback off of that with a dramatic reading of the city’s code of ethics, but I also didn’t want this to be the first time the City Council heard it.”

Hoots and some boos followed much of Premako’s commentary throughout the night.

Laurie Ender dedicated her Newsmaker of the Year award to Ed Redd, a Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commissioner, who died Tuesday.

“I’m kind of a media junkie, so to be honored by the media, and to be recognized for something you already love to do, it’s a double victory, really,” Ender said.

“(Every morning) We go out in our pink fuzzy slippers – or maybe that’s just me – and pick up The Signal and see if we’re in it. Some people hope we are, and some people hope we aren’t,” she said.

Smyth, who had been nominated for Newsmaker of the Year four times previously but didn’t win, said he was trying to calculate his chances of winning the top honor as awards were given for Friend of the Press, Business of the Year and Behind the Scenes.

“I wasn’t coming back after five (nominations) in a row,” Smyth joked.

Smyth, R-Santa Clarita – who was just appointed by a Democrat to chair the California Local Government Committee, becoming the first Republican to chair that committee since 1996 – added: “I was afraid I would be Most Controversial (in 2010) with some of the votes I’m going to have to cast, but then Bob Kellar took care of that.”

The event also featured keynote speaker Jim Ruebsamen, former photojournalist, and adviser to the now-defunct College of the Canyons student newspaper, who reminded listeners that First Amendment freedoms of the press date to the 1730s, two generations before the Constitution was even written.

Whyte, a founding member of the SCV Press Club and longtime Press Club president, received the Ruth Newhall Lifetime Achievement Award.

Whyte recalled his former colleague Randy Wicks with fondness.

“He would call them as he’d see them. He’d love (this event),” Whyte said.

“He’d be drawing cartoons about a lot of the people who are here tonight.”

Originally posted here http://www.signalscv.com/archives/26262/