The Orange County Business Journal was basically right last week about the Register surrendering in Long Beach, but missed the bigger story. No amount of spin from Aaron Kushner can prevent a spreading sense that his financial experiment with the Register in Orange County and Los Angeles is now in trouble. Remember that hiring of 100+ journalists which we all cheered? The Register today informed employees that they all have to take two weeks off without pay and quickly: within the next two months. There's also a voluntary separation program in the newsroom, meaning the paper will pay some of those journalists to go away. And the Long Beach Register, the daily newspaper that last August began Kushner's move into Los Angeles County, will fold into a section of the daily Los Angeles Register. Only on Sundays will subscribers in Long Beach receive a dedicated LB section; the Register press release spins it all as a plus for Long Beach.
A memo to the staff from Kushner says it's all OK.
Critics will try to say that we have failed. To the contrary, the failure would be if we did not try at all, or if in our measured success we did not adapt so that we could continue to invest in our growth.
Kushner and Eriz Spitz tick off a number of what they declare as accomplishments. Romenesko has the whole memo. Here's how it starts:
When we came to the Register nearly two years ago, we were explicit in our mission to become a different kind of newspaper, one that builds community and grows itself. We were also clear that the fulfillment of our mission would be incredibly challenging and ultimately we hoped rewarding.
Over the last 22 months, we have made a bold investment in the future of newspapers and we are far from finished. We have expanded and created locally focused newspapers that cannot be matched in terms of their depth and quality. We have invested in staff, sections and community-building programs to deliver tangible value for our subscribers and advertisers.
We continue to expand the geography and depth of service to our communities, and in doing so hear daily reminders of how our newspapers enhance the quality of life for subscribers and help local businesses grow. We should be proud of that fact, and we should be proud of the energy we’ve invested into assuring the vitality of our newspapers.
And that LA Register has really made a dent in Los Angeles, eh?
Register critic Gustavo Arellano has the furloughs FAQ at the OC Weekly.
* Update: The Register's own story says that newsroom layoffs may be needed if enough staffers do not signup to be bought out. A source with ties to the Register emailed that something like 75% of the newsroom was offered the buyout in meetings Tuesday, with the target that a third of the editorial staff would likely be gone as of late June.
Media writer Rem Rieder in USA Today: "Aaron Kushner's ambitious and totally counter-intuitive expansion of his print journalism operations in Southern California has suffered a severe setback....This seemingly panicked approach is 'unheard of,' says top media analyst Ken Doctor. 'It says, 'We're out of money.' That's not a signal you want to send readers and staffers.'"