Extra Extra! Just two years after purchasing the Orange County Register promising to resuscitate print media in America, Chief executive and Chairman, Aaron Kushner, and President, Eric Spitz, handed in their resignation at the paper and parent company Freedom Communications Inc.
After a symphony of staff reductions, furloughs, closures of the Los Angeles and Long Beach papers, and at one point actually having the reporters deliver the papers, the decimated company heads to the selling block.
Tuesday reporters assembled at the Orange County Register headquarters in Santa Ana awaiting the announcement. Kushner stood mostly silent, according to several employees who requested to remain anonymous for “fear of losing their jobs,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
Spitz, who resigned from the role of president, though he will remain as company chairman, told staff members to write thank-you notes to the resigning chief executive and to “think about” what they should be grateful for. “We had no idea a resignation was coming today, though we knew it would happen fairly soon,” one employee confessed.
“There’s no other story like this in the country,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst and Newsonomics blogger. “There’s nothing where we’ve seen this level of change, commitment, pullback and financial woes in such a small period of time.”
Media consultant Gordon Borrell admitted, “I was rooting for him, but much in the way you’d be rooting for Captain Smith to succeed in saving the Titanic after it hit the iceberg… It appeared to be one poor decision after another.”
Kushner and Spitz enlivened the media when they took over the paper in 2012, promising to pour their energies into print papers rather than digital operations. They hired 175 new reporters and editors at the Orange County Register and purchased the Riverside Press-Enterprise in 2013.
Things began to deteriorate almost immediately, as the New York Times reported that Mr. Kushner opened the Los Angeles Register only to shut it down after five months of publication.
The Los Angeles Times further reported that former casino marketing executive Rich Mirman will temporarily take over as president and chief executive. “The process will continue where he unwinds the damage,” Doctor said. “His job is to steady the place and to get it ready for another owner.”