Sunday, June 24, 2012

The New Face Of The Newspaper Business

Op-Ed by 
Allen Bacon
The Daily Bosco

A group led by a 39 year old Boston-based investor Aaron Kushner from Massachusetts announced last week that it has bought the parent company of The Orange County Register, and more than half a dozen smaller newspapers: Barstow’s Desert Dispatch, the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, the Daily Press in Victorville, and the Porterville Recorder in Porterville. In addition, the sale includes the Gazette in Colorado Springs, CO., and  the Yuma Sun in Yuma, AZ for an undisclosed sum.

Kushner’s group, 2100 Trust LLC which includes former newspaper executives, expects to close its purchase of Freedom Communications Holdings Inc. within 30 days.

Kushner is the former chief executive of a greeting-card company, Marian Heath, who had previously tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Boston Globe and the Portland Press Herald in Maine.  In the Maine newspaper, the newspaper's union did not allow the sale and the parent company of the Globe said that Kushner made no serious offer for the newspaper.

The sale completes the process of selling Freedom Communications off piece by piece, which has been steadily going on since the company emerged from bankruptcy protection in April 2010. The company had also recently announced the sale of its newspaper groups in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.  In addition, the company also sold eight television stations last month to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $385 million which helped clear the Group's Debt.

Data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations shows that readership from Monday to Friday declined to 183,595 in March 2012 for the Orange County Register, compared with 285,914 in 2007.  This is according to a New York Times article.

Because of not having any real history in the media, not a lot is known about Aaron Kushner's politics.  He has donated to candidates in both parties.

But, I am guessing the Orange County Register will not be leaning toward Libertrian Politics like it has since it's inception once Kushner and his group takes over.

Which begs the question, what would Kushner, a guy who prints greeting cards and owned an internet company,, want with a newspaper?  What is he going to do to the Register?

The first inkling that he probably has no clue about the news business is in his public statement when he first bought the Register when he said and I quote,  “The Freedom newspapers are among the best in the business with top notch reporters, editors, and business staff,” Kushner said in a statement. “We are honored to get to work with them and help support them. Our plans begin with serving our communities, and we will do everything we can to ensure the staff has all the resources necessary to continue producing great journalism.’’

Uh, clearly Mr. Kushner, you have never read the Orange County Register.  This is because the Register has not had "Great Journalism" and top notch reporters, editors and staff for a long time.

For instance last week, the Register sent  100 reporters to cover Disneyland's Cars Land.  The result was that the paper was turned into one large advertisement for Disney....with no real news that day.  While real nuts and bolts reporting on such important stories like the Kelly Thomas murder at the hands of the Fullerton Police Department went missing.

The reason for this, in my opinion is that the Register, trying to save money tried to pass off some of their sports reporters like Lou Ponsi and David Whiting as investigative reporters.  The results have been a disaster.  Just because you slap your name on a press release doe not make you an investigative reporter and that is what is happening. 

So what is the real reason why Kushner and his group wants to buy a newspaper like the Register? Kushner has a history of laying off a lot of people after acquiring companies.  But he says that he has a plan to make the Register relevant.  What is it?

Maybe the real reason he bought the company lies in something that happened this past week.

The Orange County Register released its first ebook, Notorius OC a compilation of about 60 of the worst crime stories in the community dating back to 1889.

Register court reporter Larry Welborn, who has covered every major criminal case here since the early 1970s, wrote the book, which was edited by Bill Diepenbrock. In addition to the detailed coverage of the crimes and court cases that followed, the book includes dozens of photos taken by Register photographers.

"People often say newspapers write the first draft of history," said Register editor and interim publisher Ken Brusic. "We've just extended that concept and we intend to do more books about our community."

The book initially will be available for $2.99 for Amazon Kindle readers or can be downloaded from Amazon to your PC or mobile/tablet device. After Amazon's 90-day exclusivity period, the book also will be available on Nook and I Tunes.

Think about it. Think about the amazing history that the newspapers record.  Think of all the stories and photographs that the paper owns.  That's a gold mine.  That's where the real money is.  Producing history books. Because the newspaper as we have known it is dying.

Look around you.  People are now getting their news instantly on line or on a device.  The newer generation doesn't like waiting the next day or even the next hour to get their news.

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