Orange County Register owner plans daily LA paper

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The parent company of the Orange County Register plans to expand with a daily paper in Los Angeles, looking to further stretch its regional reach to nearly all of Southern California.

The new, seven-days-a-week paper will be known as the Los Angeles Register, Freedom Communications CEO Aaron Kushner told The Associated Press on Thursday night, a few hours after announcing the move to his staff in the Orange County Register's newsroom.

Kushner didn't give many specifics about plans for the paper but said it will be launched "quickly" and will be widely distributed in print in Los Angeles County. The Register's story on the launch said it would come early next year.

Kushner said the paper will share Orange County Register content in sports and other areas with regional relevance, but he emphasized it will be a distinct entity with a Los Angeles office and a staff made up of existing Register employees and new hires.

"It will be the LA Register, not the Orange County Register," Kushner said in a phone interview. "We're not a national paper, we are a local community-building paper, so that means having local people in the community they're covering."

Shortly after the announcement, Orange County Register staffers received an email asking about their interest in covering Los Angeles.

The move represents the first time in years that a newspaper has sought to challenge the area's dominant daily, the Los Angeles Times.

The Times' last citywide daily competitor, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, folded in 1989, and plans for startups have been frequently proposed since, but all have faltered. Los Angeles County's other newspapers have largely chosen to focus on their local area instead of the region.

Kushner said he believes there is a place for a paper with a different emphasis and perspective.

"We think the LA Times is a great national newspaper. We are a very different kind of newspaper," Kushner said. "Obviously, we have a very different political perspective. We're not liberal and we're not reactionary. We believe in free markets."

Asked to respond, Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said in an email, "Our first and foremost mission is serving Southern California, as we have for 132 years."

Last month, Freedom Communications Inc. bought the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the region's biggest inland newspaper, for $27.2 million from Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp., a month after the deal was announced.

That acquisition combined with a new Long Beach daily and the move into Los Angeles means Freedom's papers will have vast reach in a heavily populated region.

But it means an increasingly large gamble that the millions of potential readers will turn into lots of actual customers at a time when the newspaper business is generally shrinking.

Ken Doctor, a newspaper industry analyst with Outsell Inc., said the move may be an attempt to find new revenue to cover Freedom's fast-growing costs, but it's bold nonetheless.

"Aaron Kushner and Freedom Communications are making the most contrarian play in American newspapers," Doctor said. "While newspapers overall are receding and retracting and cutting, he is in expansionist mode."

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