Why is New OC Register Editor Rob Curley Already So Loathed in the Newsroom?

rob_curley.jpg
Curley: White-on-white-on-white-on-white? Dude, get a fashion guru...
From the moment the memo came out confirming news we had broken earlier in the morning--that the Orange County Register was laying off dozens of veterans, including longtime editor Ken Brusic, and putting deputy editor of local news Rob Curley in charge--the emails started coming in from the private (and made-up!) accounts of Reg folks, all collectively yelling, "AH, HELL NO!"

The best one came from a continual source who calls himself N. Christian Anderson III but who isn't the Reg's legendary former editor and publisher. This mysterious person has never left any contact information, but has predicted EVERYTHING correctly about the Reg's moves over the past six months, weeks before it happened.

"Nothing personal against Rob Curley," "Anderson" wrote, "but Kushner just canned an editor who oversaw three Pulitzer prizes and replaced him with a guy whose claim to fame is, um, hmm, oh yeah, developing a database of bars in Lawrence, KS, and spending tons of money on interactive projects."

HAHAHAHAHA! But one wonders: why all the animus toward Curley? The answer is in his past, which shows a person big on ambition and buzz, but with little long-term sustainable results to show for it.

Curley first came to national prominence in 2005, when he headed the digital efforts of a newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas, to the point where it earned attention from both NPR and the New York Times. He parlayed that into a position with the Washington Post heading a hyper-local website for a Virginia suburb that also received national attention; after that, he headed off to the Las Vegas Sun in 2008 to helm their digital operations.

See a pattern here? Curley jumped from opportunity to opportunity to opportunity, wherever the money was for him to play with. At the Sun, Curley was put in charge of their digital operations, and spearheaded an effort to start brand-new broadcasts and other efforts for the paper that initially brought the Sun widespread acclaim. In the newsroom, however, it brought chaos. A video effort that the Sun spent millions of dollars on only lasted four months. He angered the long-timers, and created a team around him distinct from everyone else.

The best analysis came from a 2010 Las Vegas CityLife post-mortem on the efforts, and its insights into Curley at the time are telling. "The only thing I love more than journalism is capitalism," he told the paper at the time, and that's a perfect philosophy for Freedom Communications, no? But Curley's way toward profit wasn't the paper-first mentality that Kushner has instituted on Grand Street but a focus on clickbait--the very thing Kushner has professed to loathe and is now impossible with their mighty (but increasingly porous) paywall.

"There are a lot of reasons you want to move on," one former Curley staffer told CityLife for the story. "But one of them was the direction they were taking the video department...It was getting away from hard news and moving into infotainment, celebrity stuff. Fun. Fluff. I was just not really interested in all that."

It got worse. Curley became so mercurial, according to the article, that in one instance, "one reporter asked a question about a search engine that wasn't working. The reporters in the room considered the question pretty innocent. Apparently Curley did not. Afterward, the Sun's editors instructed reporters not to ask Curley any more questions; if they had problems with the website, they could take it up with an editor."

But that was hardly Curley's biggest sin in Sin City. The CityLife article also revealed that Curley played footsie with the idea of payola. "Curley devised a new strategy," it said. "Promotional partners, such as casinos, would be able to buy segments on [Curley's news show]. Product placement would be sold. Curley described it in an article on emediavitals.com as a model that would be similar to newspaper advertorials, which are special articles purchased by advertisers and run in a different section of the newspaper."

Sound familiar? Because that's what the Register has done with its weekly university sections, which have proven an ethical embarrassment to the company. But wait, there's more!

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17 comments
JiveTalkin
JiveTalkin

This guy was put in a no-win spot; regardless of his resume, he's there to be a lightning rod and take heat for the higher-ups. Hope he's getting well-compensated for it. 


Toxic as morale is there, Barack Obama circa 2008 couldn't galvanize that bunch.

rhearst49
rhearst49

Nice hatchet job, Gustavo. With sources like an anonymous faker even you can't identify, an old OC Weekly crony, and some old clips, you're really breaking ground here — in shoddiness that eclipses even OC Weekly's usual cheap-shot standards.


What an investigative genius you are! Let's see, what's missing? How about actually talking to Curley? How about interviewing  someone who works with him at the Register? How about even pretending for a minute you're a journalist and make a gesture at fairness? You know for a fact Curley is loathed throughout the newsroom? Really? Must be nice to have license to make up crap and get paid for it!

magicvilas
magicvilas

He looks like the poster boy for Meganslaw.gov

Jenny Wilson
Jenny Wilson

I don't understand the OC Weekly is constantly so intent on bagging on the Register.. It's so petty its laughable.

Louise Larsen
Louise Larsen

My advice to anyone being snarky right now is to remember the old saying: "What goes around comes around."

Greg Ridge
Greg Ridge

Well, it's not like the bar is real high.....

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

We have pals from Garden City that are FAR cooler than this guy...

Greg Ridge
Greg Ridge

He's from Kansas ( Lawrence, Pop. 87,000)....quit bagging on how he looks, he can't help it. He's sporting a beaded necklace. What's it gonna take to impress you guys , a Mike Tyson Hangover II Face tattoo?

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

The tag "OC Register Death Watch" has never been more apropos.  Reading this great post conjured the recent history of JCPenney: a flashy, supremely confident guy with a professional background in tech retail (Apple Stores) takes over an old but profitable department store and proceeds to drive away the masses who made the balance sheet be net positive.  To steal a quote from the post: "Sound familiar?"  


Except, in this case, when the walls come crashing down, the old media dinosaurs won't be able to return and save the Reg.  Even Orange County's famously dense populace -- which thinks Wahoo's serves great food and believes The Irvine Company's mission really is the preservation of open space -- will catch on to the Register's pay-for-publish journalism model, and will realize that the LA Times and the OC Weekly are more than adequate sources for actual OC news. 


Aaron Roach
Aaron Roach

I always liked him better than Shemp.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@FFO1939Given you haven't commented in months, nor Mitchie, I'm beginning to think the two of you pendejos are one and the same...

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

It's not petty...the Register's lameness is one of the driving forces that perpetuates lameness in these fair orange acres.  If this county ever wants to have any level of sophistication, we need to confront the Register, relentlessly.  Look behind every great...or at least livable...place: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Philadelphia...and you'll find a very good daily newspaper.  


CharlesLam
CharlesLam

@JBinOC I liked jcp :(. (I just never shopped there, and that's the story hahaha)

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