Aaron Kushner's Clueless Orange County Register Ownership

Categories: OC Media

AaronKushnerFCOCRdw.jpg
Kushner: Focus on what I'm saying, not on what I'm doing, okay?
Aaron Kushner, owner of The Orange County Register, probably assumed his recent interview with Larry Mantle, KPCC's host of AirTalk, would be a painless breeze.

As we've previously reported, members of the mainstream media have repeatedly abandoned their cognitive powers to become squealing Kushner cheerleaders solely because he initially made grandiose promises of creating a journalistic utopia when the rest of the media world was steeped in layoffs and cutbacks.

Never mind that one of his first steps was to quietly axe the company's matching 401(k) retirement contributions to reporters and other staffers.

"Despite all the saccharine hype, Kushner's 15-month reign at Grand Avenue demonstrates no point greater than that the 40-year-old businessman with a background in hawking greeting cards is a superb salesman whose ignorance of journalism only seems to fuel his rah-rah enthusiasm," I observed on these pages in September 2013.

Signs of Kushner's incompetence have continued to mount in the intervening nine months: a horribly expensive pay-wall that often made the Register unnecessarily irrelevant, a juvenile focus on happy news and big photos of high school club meetings, secret deals tying favorable news coverage for businesses that enter into advertising contracts, huge layoffs of veteran talent, and ill-advised expansion into Long Beach, Los Angeles and Riverside.

Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano recently disclosed mandatory furloughs this summer at the paper and Kushner's desperation sales pitches to attract investors. His reign is buried in such a financial mess he's on the verge of another round of mass layoffs and is even trying to sell Reg headquarters in Santa Ana as well as other papers in the once mighty Freedom Communications chain.

Given that dismal reality, Kushner's appearance on Mantle's June 4 broadcast was, as we've become accustomed, another opportunity for him to happily declare all is well despite the iceberg dead ahead.

"We're highly confident that the team as it continues will be able to continue to deliver against our mission of community building," he robotically uttered. "We invested in community building, not in print, not in digital. We invested in our communities."

The empty, vacuum-cleaner-salesman-like lines alarmed the normally non-confrontational Mantle.

"I have to say, if I worked for you, hearing your description and the lack of specifics, I'd be very nervous about the future," he said near the conclusion of the 15-minute interview.

But the mild confrontation failed to pierce Kushner's fake smile. Though he had no prior journalistic experience, the man who jumped the deep fissure between selling greeting cards to selling news didn't immediately address the assertion. Instead, he tersely punted, saying, "Any other questions?"

Sure.

You have no clue what you're doing, do you?

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Email: rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @RScottMoxley.

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23 comments
alpacarules
alpacarules

With all the layoffs of talented journalists and fired top sales reps, how does management expect that who are left will actually be engaged and work? Sounds like a sad environment - one that has been fueled by the immature antics of the inexperienced bright-eyed owners.

peter.stocking
peter.stocking

The destruction of a once great paper with a long tradition of excellent journalism, by a right-wing-nut-job-hack...so sad for the citizens of Orange County...I am canceling my subscription immediately...

Jordan Prell
Jordan Prell

Larry Mantle is a badass! Great interview

Marilyn Iturri
Marilyn Iturri

I don't mind paying something to get the news. I don"t work for free; why should the OCR folks? However, I'm not williing to pay for rewritten press releases and lightweight features. There needs to be some substantive journalism by writers and editors who know what they're doing, not by newbies just learning the ropes.

dale_c
dale_c

"Community building"? What asshole. I will admit he would make a fine politician tho...

Tiffany Speed Blay
Tiffany Speed Blay

When I first tried to read an article they wanted me to pay to read, I envisioned the demise of the Register. What a completely ill-thought out move. I guess he doesn't realize people read better news articles for free online.

Rick Hale
Rick Hale

They need to get more tabloidy, like OC Weakly. Maybe a bunch of racist stories slamming the white part of OC and glorifying North County would save them. Injecting value judgements into their "news" stories might help, too. That seems to work well for OC Weakly. I bet they could bring in more advertising $$ if they accepted ad's from hookers.

compushed
compushed

It's gone from bad to worse under Kushner.

El Coico
El Coico

I used to love reading the news, but to pay for news that you can access elsewhere for free? I assume most feel the same or else the Register wouldn't be on the brink extinction. The paper was struggling before and it seems like this dude finished it off. What a douche.

Eugene W Fields
Eugene W Fields

^^Well, since they circulate about 200,000 copies daily, someone reads it.

InDaKnow
InDaKnow

The headline of this article is right on point unfortunately. These two crawdads have milked OCR until the teet is now an empty sack hanging near grandma's waist. One of these guys stays at a high end Newport Beach hotel four nights a week while his company is sinking and taking dollars from employees in many ways. The other one finances his personal real estate transactions on the company dime. I don't think either one could manage a Taco Bell profitably.

They have taken from employees to finance their careless personal and professional habits. Less company contributions for health care, discontinued company match 401K, no salary increases, elimination of performance bonus by making the goal impossible, mortgaged the pension plan, sold or attempted to sell all the real estate, delayed payments to all vendors by at least 60 days, hired 400 people then layed off almost as many, expanded into two areas that had virtually no chance of being successful-one of those has already gone to a weekly, been sued by 5 separate individuals who were employed or tapped in the arse by them, are all things they accomplished in less than 2 years.  Nice effort boys.

This would be funny if not so tragic for those that work here.  The people I work with are so negative towards the company now, We try not to be but it is just one thing after another. There is never any reward for doing anything, only less take home pay or benefits. People look to the top and see two people that are liars and both are extremely selfish. Even when we make our sales targets or get close, the game is changed to where we can't succeed. Other departments used to have a profit sharing plan. Of course there is not profit due to mismanagement but that plan has been abolished according to my contact in finance. I have a birds eye view from sales but being here for 6 years I can see every department I interact with has the same or similar view.

I'll give another report after I attend the "town hall" at 4 today.

FrontRowSeat
FrontRowSeat


Last Monday Eric Morgan, Arron's word washer, announced: 

Please attend Associate Town Hall June 9th, 4:00 p.m. 

Owners Aaron Kushner, Register Publisher and Freedom CEO, and Eric Spitz, Freedom President, will co-host a Town Hall session on Monday, June 9th at 4:00 p.m. to discuss latest initiatives and progress in implementing the Register's strategy.

The session will be held in the newsroom on the third floor. All associates are encouraged to attend and ask questions. 

That should be an extremely animated meeting. At least 100 people in the audience have been asked to participate in voluntary severance. After furloughs, layoffs and voluntary severance packages, one has to wonder just how receptive the audience will be if Aaron tries to answer questions in the same gutless, misleading fashion as he did with Larry Mantle.

Coyote625
Coyote625

King Kushner quietly axed the company's 401(K) retirement contributions for ALL employees! Additional cost savings measures implemented is the ever changing commission plan for the sales force. Unattainable goals are distributed each month. Well placed personnel reports over 90% of the sales division has not made commission this year!

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

"...pay-wall that often made the Register unnecessarily irrelevant..."

As opposed to necessarily irrelevant, which is what it was.  

sherreeg
sherreeg

I used to grit my teeth when I read the editorials in the OC Reg., frothing-at-the-mouth tirades against the black man in the oval office, county workers (who, I guess, should work for free), global warming, you name it. The last straw came when publishers decided Eric Cantor's historic senate primary loss in June wasn't worthy of much coverage. Hello!

onlyme
onlyme

another douche heard from. I'm surprised Eugene Fields was able to write this comment with his nose so far up Kushner's backside.

onlyme
onlyme

@InDaKnow It's been three days. Is the town hall still going on?

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@FrontRowSeat 

Of course, those who chose this week as one of their "furlough" weeks can't break state and federal labor laws by attending -- so they'll have to rely on ringside still photos and courtroom sketches of the bloodbath.  


paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@JBinOC  Most of the online content isn't hidden behind the paywall. Most of it can be viewed no problem. I think they loosened it up to get more readership. The LA Times is all behind the paywal. All of it.

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