The Orange County Business Journal is reporting that local mega-slumlord George Argyros is interested in buying the Orange County Register (we'd link to the OCBJ, but you have to pay to read the article--get with the 21st century, Rick Reiff!). This is a horrible idea, and not just because Argyros knows nothing about journalism and is notorious for buying properties and putting no money in them (best examples: Seattle Mariners during the 1980s, his apartments). It boils down to this: George Argyros supports censoring journalists.
How do I know? Because I suffered George's portly wrath.
In March 2004, a week after the deadly Madrid train bombings, I wrote an article haranguing Argyros--then the non-Spanish-speaking ambassador to Spain--for his role in forcing Spain to enter the War on Terror, a war opposed by nearly 90 percent of Spaniards. Two months later, Argyros was at Chapman University, my alma mater and a school where Argyros graduated from and was the longtime chair of the Board of Trustees. He was at Chapman to escort around former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, a gavilán (chicken hawk) if ever there was one. Athnar (spelling deliberate to emulate the Castilian lithp) gave a speech of some sort, and then was going to give a press conference.
I covered Athnar's speech, then went to the press conference. Before I could enter the room, Chapman's then-head of public relations, a diminutive creature by the name of Ruth Wardwell, told me I was banned from the press conference for my Argyros article. Apparently, Argyros was so infuriated by my piece that he demanded retribution, and his will was done to a formerly proud Chapman alumni.
I've received private apologies from Chapman administrators and teachers who remember me in the years since but never a public one from President Jim Doti (indeed, he once told students who wrote a never-published story on the incident that I "didn't reflect Chapman values") or Argyros for their role in banning me from a press conference and setting a stellar example for their students. Fuck them, of course: I'm giving all my pennies to Orange Coast College when I retire.
But if Argyros pulled such petty stops at a university that he doesn't own to go against an enemy and protect his friends, imagine what he'd do with a newspaper. Consider all the connections he has with the lords of Orange County. The thought of an Argyros-owned Register should send chills down any lover of the free press. Argyros would make the pre-Otis Chandler Chandlers seem as unbiased as Jesus.