Scott Newhall, the colorful editor whose flamboyant brand of journalism helped shape a growing Santa Clarita Valley and resurrected a slumbering San Francisco Chronicle, died Oct. 26, 1992, at age 78.
He began as a photographer on the Chronicle in 1934 at age 20 and by 1952 had become executive editor. When he left in 1971, his legacy included a series of zany stories including several about the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals that advocated clothing the “vital areas” of domesticated pets.
Newhall also sent a reporter to Mexico to find where Pancho Villa’s head was buried and ran headlines such as “A Great City Forced To Drink Swill” to protest what he considered the poor quality of coffee served in San Francisco.
During his reign, Newhall was able to lure back to the Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, who was writing for the Examiner at the time. Ten years after Newhall took over as executive editor, circulation was up to nearly 400,000, moving the paper into San Francisco’s top newspaper spot.
As editor, he carried the torch of dissent against the Vietnam War, maintaining (with good reason, it later turned out) that the American government was lying to its people.
After his career in the Bay Area, he went to the city that bore his family’s name and was editor with his wife, Ruth, of the Newhall Signal.
Scott was a board member of the family owned Newhall Land and Farming Company. Among its assets was a 45,000-acre ranch surrounding the small communities of Newhall and Saugus, which then claimed a total population of about 3,500. Scott saw the potential for a growing area.
Newhall Land and Farming directors decided development was inevitable, and rather than selling off the land they sought to create a well-planned community. That was the start of Valencia.
The idea of Valencia, and the planners’ idealized designs, were revealed to merchants and politicians and other leading citizens at a dinner party given in a huge tent set up on a hill near the soon-to-be freeway. The dinner was elegant, ornamented by the mayor of Valencia, Spain, who had been flown over to christen his city’s young namesake. It was an intoxicating view for merchants whose principal customers had been farmers and the new residents of working-class subdivisions.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*