Under Publisher Aaron Kushner, the Orange County Register has invested heavily to hire reporters to cover its home turf.
Now, Kushner is bringing the strategy to Los Angeles County. His company, Freedom Communications, will launch a daily newspaper in Long Beach on Aug. 19.
Kushner hired veteran Publisher Ian Lamont last week to head the paper that will compete directly with the Long Beach Press-Telegram, where Lamont was publisher from 2001 through 2004.
Lamont said cutbacks at the Press-Telegram have opened up an opportunity for his publication to increase print coverage of the community – similar to what the Register has done farther south.
“(The Press-Telegram) has reduced newsroom resources,” he said. “The Orange County owners are doing exactly the opposite. They’ve added 300 people and increased the size of the Register and increased the size of the newsroom.”
The Long Beach newspaper will have two sections: one for community news, opinion and photos, and the other focusing on schools. Freedom will insert the Register into the Long Beach paper. The paper’s name was not announced.
The move signals that Kushner, who bought Freedom last year, is continuing his campaign to disprove the notion that daily newspapers are a thing of the past.
Last month, Tribune Co., parent company of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and six other papers, reported that its newspaper ad revenue dropped 9 percent in the second quarter to $254 million. The company’s profit, which also includes its TV business, plunged 41 percent from the same period a year earlier to $58 million.
At its community papers in suburbs such as Burbank and La Canada-Flintridge, the Times has cut back the number of days published and consolidated staff. Freedom, meanwhile, has been ramping up its newspapers in communities such as Newport Beach and Irvine. The Long Beach paper will be Freedom’s first foray into Los Angeles County.
The publication will subsist primarily on ad revenue. Lamont said Freedom papers are better positioned than others in the industry since it is reinvesting in putting out a quality product.
It will no doubt try to take share from the challenged Press-Telegram, part of the Los Angeles News Group that also includes the Torrance Daily Breeze and Los Angeles Daily News. As layoffs have spread throughout the group, the Press-Telegram often shares stories and resources with the other papers, which some say has decreased its local focus.
Ron Hasse, Los Angeles News Group publisher and president, did not return a call for comment.
Sarah Bennett, executive editor at digital news site and print monthly Long Beach Post, said she doesn’t think the Freedom paper will impact the Post. But she added that it’s a positive for the community as a whole.
Freedom faces a similar challenge to the Press-Telegram, which prints some L.A. news: making readers care about Orange County.
“We don’t identify as L.A. and we don’t identify as Orange County,” she said. “Long Beach has its own identity. But coming in with a specified Long Beach news section might be able to lure people.”
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