Aaron Kushner Tries to Rally His Writers at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Writers Un-Rallied

Thumbnail image for aaron_kushner_pied_piper.jpg
As Kushner sings, "La la lalalala la lala la la"
Amidst the coming hara kiri of the Orange County Register next week, owner Aaron Kushner traveled to the IE yesterday to meet with staff of the Riverside Press Enterprise, the paper he acquired last November...only to lay off a bunch of people and install yes-men at the top.

He tried to reassure them that everything would be hunky-dory at the P-E--layoffs and buyouts aren't expected at the paper...yet. But, unsurprisingly, the P-E staff didn't believe a single word that came out of Kushner's mouth, and is already mocking him behind his back.

From a source in the newsroom, who requested anonymity:

The Press-Enterprise meeting with Kushner today went as well as the OC one, I think.

Someone in the newsroom kept a tally; he said the word growth/grow 60+ times. But, no real specific on how to grow. One reporter had the balls to question how to grow with better content when you keep laying people off and furloughing them.

He kept going on and on about how we're moving into San Bernardino and giving the people there a good newspaper. Someone finally brought up the fact we don't have a reporter covering the area. At all. That might come later, he said. Maybe. You know, if we make money. Because the people in San Bernardino don't need actual news about the city they live and work in. But, I'm sure they love all the Hemet news!

He was later heard saying there's no need to cover big stories there and just to write some happy stories.

No audio has emerged yet--we'll report back if we find some. In the meanwhile: P-E folks, start spilling the beans to me. Anonymity guaranteed, and contact info below!

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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28 comments
JiveTalkin
JiveTalkin

How many times did he say "community?"

timothyathompson
timothyathompson

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hayden927
hayden927

Where was the meeting? Jack in the Box? Or was it at the chicago office? ON Dan Bernsteins old desk. I'm sorry, too many question marks. Unfortunately with the Pied Piper people are left with more questions than answers. After he closes the Riverside printing plant and starts printing the paper in oc there won't be ay reason to come back to the IE. The Press Enterprise is a walking corpse. Aaron Kushner should let it die with a little dignity. 

BBAIN
BBAIN

I'm not a huge Register fan, but it seems as though you Weekly boys take pleasure in other people's misfortunes.  Kushner took a chance and failed - albeit miserably.  Apple, Microsoft, McDonalds, among other fortune 100 companies have had miserable product failures.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I guess it's funny that people are losing their jobs?  I get it though - the Register is a competitor of the Weekly.  The Weekly obviously has less overhead. 

bphood
bphood

No one cares...to much inside ball

gm0622
gm0622

The blind leading the sighted, Oh, that is gonna work out well. Maybe they can push him over a cliff.

scoobydoo369
scoobydoo369

@BBAIN I do think that Aaron and Eric have gotten their fair share of un-needed criticism throughout the past two years.  They were trying to do something different and unique. Trying to reinvent the wheel.  I agree with you in that.  But being a former employeeduring these experimental times, I can honestly say that I was always preparing for something like this scale of layoffs.Yes, the owners were very confident and reassuring, but I always had a lingering feeling that the “upswing” at the register wouldn’t last forever.When I left the company (shortly before the layoffs a few weeks ago) every single one of my colleagues was telling me how smart I was for leaving, and how they wanted/were planning to do the same.Some of those people lost their jobs, and who knows who will be left after the restructuring.The point I’m trying to make is that it’s a shame the so many people have to lose their jobs, but from what I saw on the inside, it should not have been such a “shock” to anyone.



Don’t get me wrong though, the way Aaron is not telling his employee’s anything and hiding finances behind the fact the company is “private” is definitely not reassuring and is a slap in the face to all his hard working employee’s trying to make his aspirations a reality. 

willmalexander
willmalexander

I agree with you BBain. It's not so much that this ought not be reported; it's HOW it's reported. Very juvenile - relishing in Aaron's misfortune, almost wishing the venture to be a disaster. As if Aaron and Eric wanted things to fail. These guys risked their money and reputations on a business undergoing historic changes. It's easy to sit outside the arena and criticize. What they attempted to do is extremely difficult and they made a good go at it. They should be applauded. It's very likely that if they would not have stepped in, the Register could have been far worse off. We need more Aarons and Erics; young men with an entrepreneurial spirit who, though they fall short, add something to our understanding about the historic changes being forced on the industry. Gustavo's "reporting" has no dignity; hits below the belt unnecessarily. If this is the type of reporting we have come to, we're in trouble. If you want a more reasoned account if this ongoing saga, look up Kenneth Doctor.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@BBAIN Funny how you think we're somehow the villain when we're not the one costing the Reg folks their jobs...

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@willmalexander 

Are you fucking kidding me?  There's a huge difference between taking "risk" as "entrepreneurs" and doing something with no realistic, rational plan, except one driven entirely by your inflated egos.


If I were stuck in an elevator near the top of a towering hi-rise with a dozen people, I could probably climb on top and cut the hoist ropes to get the car to move again...except, I'd probably kill us all when it crashes at the bottom.  But at least you'd praise me afterward for trying. 


BBAIN
BBAIN

@willmalexander I agree - WTF?  They risked money to create jobs and revive a dying industry.  I don't really give a f*** about the print newspaper industry, but the fact is that some people still like getting the morning paper.  Not me, because I'm cheap and would rather catch up on the news on the company dime, but I'm getting off the point.  Why constantly poke jabs at a guy who tried to create jobs and stimulate the economy?


Is it insecurity?  Did the Register make you little fellas feel insecure?  Constant jabs at Brad Johnson - although when your initials are BJ, I suppose you're asking for it.

BBAIN
BBAIN

@willmalexander Amen to that.  Another thing to note is that over the years, as the prodding and jabbing by the Weekly continued, I've never seen the Register take one cheap shot at the Weekly.  WTF dude - I guess trash talking in journalism is kind of fun. 

willmalexander
willmalexander

That's Ken Doctor at the Nieman Journalism Lab or Newsonomics. Always great analysis!

BBAIN
BBAIN

@GustavoArellano @BBAIN That's not quite what I meant... I was just saying that it seems like you guys are taking pleasure in the fact that people are losing their jobs.  Or, taking pleasure in the fact that Kushner is failing, and as a direct result, people are losing their jobs.

willmalexander
willmalexander

That's a sensational, teenaged, extremely detached, simpleton analogy. These young men are entrepreneurs. They did have a plan. It just turns out they were wrong. Dead wrong; like many entrepreneurs who venture, sometimes foolishly, into risky territory to explore their take on a very difficult situation. The print side of the industry is all but dead and if there were a simple solution, it would have been found by now. That's why so many, even critics, looked at their experiment with great curiousity and some with hope that it might even work. The paper, for a while, looked amazing and was packed with rich, local content - a journalist's dream. Their vision was not in line with reality, but you cannot say that there was no plan as if they intended the venture to fail. Silly. It was you who was at the top of the elevator, on a death watch, ready to cut the wires before the venture, fatal it turns out, was given a chance; always criticizing with detached, juvenile exuberance, so typical of today's fickle, empty internet noise. Being a competing paper, I don't expect you to be a cheerleader but just bring some meat to the table. Anyone can stand outside the Register building to cuss and throw rocks.

willmalexander
willmalexander

Wow. Really? My name is clearer in the reply. I would hope Curley wouldn't waste his time posting to this site. My name really is Will Alexander.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@BBAINThat's like saying that by cheering the demise of Dubya, we're cheering the demise of the American people. You can separate the two, right?

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@willmalexander 

The print industry is not "dead," at all.  Look no further than the LA Times, which is profitable (albeit not as much as it was in the '80s).  I have no doubt the OC Weekly is, too, or Voice Media Group would have stopped the presses already.


So, the "meat" I'll bring to the table is that even if you handed a high school graduate a franchise like the OC Register, the sole daily in an affluent, thriving, diverse county of 3 million+ residents, they'd likely have had a better plan to sustain and grow the enterprise.  Why?  They wouldn't be blinded by their egos and have implemented a universally-questioned, irrational business plan for expansion.  


And the "critics" you talk about either were vested stakeholders in the industry, or were "curious" in the same way I would be at the sight of a horrific car accident.  


Buddy, the only "juvenile exuberance" I see is not my own blunt assessment, but your own rose-colored view of the paper having "rich, local content" -- paid for and written, of course, by UCI, Cal State Fullerton, and Chapman. 

BBAIN
BBAIN

@GustavoArellano @BBAIN All due respect, that is a horseshit analogy.  I suppose I agree with your comment on the Angels game post - I also like alcohol and GTA 5... have you beaten it yet?  I also like me a high quality sativa!

willmalexander
willmalexander

Sigh ... Such a useless, elementary-level reply. Disappointed. Really. Scribbled like you honestly believe what you say is true; got it all figured out. Such an extremely careless and surfacy reply coming from a professional. And you probably have no clue how inaccurate and inappropriate your comments are ... been in cyberspace way too long. Sad.

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

@willmalexander 

Haha...you sound like a curmudgeonly English teacher more interested in using fancy syntax than challenging my points.  I'm happy to let the previous comments with my name imprint stand so the readers here can judge for themselves whether or not the Kushner-Spitz 'plan' was an irrational, ego-driven mess powered by often-paid, lame, "happy news" content...or not.

I have strong feeling that Jeff Bezos (in DC) and Gerry Lenfest (in Philadelphia) are not going to destroy the franchises they've bought in those two affluent, educated metro areas, which are not dissimilar to OC.  

"Young men with an entrepreneurial spirit?"  I don't think David Filo and Jerry Yang, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have anything to worry about with Kushner and Spitz -- egomaniacs looking to make some money who'll never admit they're wrong.  

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