The struggling Orange County Register, a staple in California for over one hundred years, has asked its employees to deliver its newspapers on Sundays in order to keep costs down. The Register had contracted with the Los Angeles Times for delivery services, but this month two investor groups told a Delaware judge that the delivery contract was a reason for the Register’s insolvency. The groups asked for a receiver to supervise Freedom Communications Inc., the paper’s parent company.
The editor of the Register confirmed that the paper has offered reporters and other employees $150 gift cards if they deliver 500 to 600 papers. He told Reuters:
The entire company — all departments, including our newsroom — has been asked to help during what has clearly been a difficult situation. It’s strictly voluntary. It’s unusual, yes. It’s frustrating that we’re even in this position. But it’s temporary. Bottom line: all of us want our loyal readers to get their papers first thing in the morning.
The paper also urged its employees to help by calling subscribers who had not spoken to an agent personally. Rich Mirman, the Register’s publisher, stated that only a few delivery routes are “affected by intermittent or late delivery.”
Aaron Kushner, a greeting-card entrepreneur, bought Freedom Communications Inc, in 20102, two years after it had come out of bankruptcy. He spent millions to rejuvenate the paper, doubling the number of reporters. But a number of reporters and editors have been cut recently, and an attempt to start a Los Angeles edition failed in September.
The Los Angeles Times claims Freedom Inc. owes it $2.5 million in fees due to the delivery contract.
The Orange County Register was founded on Nov. 25, 1905, as the Santa Ana Register, when Orange County only had 20,000 residents. It has won the Pulitzer Prize three times: a 1985 Pulitzer for photography of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a 1989 Pulitzer for military affairs coverage, and a 1996 Pulitzer for investigative reporting on fertility fraud at UC Irvine.
The severe decline in print ad revenues for newspapers across the country has been noted for years; in 2012, Dr. Mark Perry, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, wrote, ”It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 11 years to go from $63.5 billion back to about $20 billion in 2011.”