We didn’t find this a.m.’s announcements from Freedom Communications a particular surprise. Gustavo Arellano’s OC Weekly blog, OC Register to Buy Riverside Press-Enterprise, discusses the Register’s latest move in acquiring the primary newspaper focused on Riverside and San Bernardino counties. And Gustavo’s speculation on Freedom’s financial condition is certainly warranted:
…the Reg’s reporters are increasingly chafing under Kushner’s expansionist plans: the salaries of veteran reporters who took pay cuts during the lean years haven’t been restored, their 401k contributions are no longer being matched, and rumors are that the paper is losing mucho dinero in Kushner’s grand scheme to become journalism’s Jesus.
If Gustavo is a seven-day subscriber to the Register’s print edition as I am, he’d probably find out that WE SUBSCRIBERS are paying for Aaron Kushner’s empire building — it’s not coming from just the expanded advertising that the Register is enjoying — nothing wrong with that, of course, and considering the aggressiveness with which they’ve added ad staff, it’s to be expected.
So it wasn’t a complete surprise on my credit card statement, I was knocked out by this email from the Register yesterday:
$42.66 from $24.30 monthly is a 75.5% increase to a 20+ year subscriber. Earlier this year, or maybe in late 2012, $24.30 was at least a 20% increase or more from the $18 or so per month we’d been paying — but a few bucks seemed worth it IF Kushner was going to improve and expand the paper, and deliver value to their subscribers. We even tolerated the Paywall that was so miserably implemented (and we believed was damaging to OCR writers who couldn’t be read in other parts of the country).
As I told the Customer Service Rep, this is unacceptable — we’re being gouged by a provider that’s been welcome in our home since we fired the LA Times in the ’80s.
This won’t stand — it’s not that it can’t be afforded on a fixed income, but we strongly believe that any increase in the price of a product needs to be preceded or accompanied by a corresponding increase in quality or volume. Except for their glossy advertising supplements, that hasn’t been the case with Kushner’s paper. In our review of the new Register last August, we were critical of two items we thought would be key to the paper’s rejuvenation — better local news coverage and editorialization that might be more focused on Orange County issues.
We don’t believe there’s been any substantive increase in local news, either in volume or quality — the union-funded Voice of OC continues to run circles around the Register in reporting on the growth of government malfeasance, especially on the County level and in Anaheim. In fact, we strongly believe that editorial commentary on Orange County government has noticeably decreased. The Reg has managed to find a lot of filler — wire service news and columns from national writers, but both are easily found on the Internet and do nothing to differentiate the product from the Times or any other newspaper that could be paid to be dumped on the driveway.
You’re fired, Kushner. You’re no longer welcome here.