Will New Register Owners Recognize the Market They Currently Ignore?

The Orange County Register emerged from bankruptcy last week with a new set of corporate owners.  I’m delighted to see any newspaper emerge from financial difficulty, but I’m also hopeful the new owners of the Register will finally acknowledge the paper’s biggest shortcoming — it’s failure from the opinion section to provide any avenue for left-of-center readers.

Considering Orange County is home to the second highest concentration of registered Democrats in the state (tied with San Diego and ahead of the People’s Republic of San Francisco) can the paper really afford to alienate a market of a half-million progressives which more than doubles the paper’s circulation figures.  I’m hoping the paper’s new ownership team reconsiders it’s sole libertarian bent (Libertarians make up about 80,000 registered voters in the state and the highest elected libertarian is a school board member) and adds a lefty columnist.  Imagine the mail the Register would get and the number of comments generated — a benchmark management measures reader appeal but for the wrong reasons (I think I will try to stop commenting on several items on Orange Punch because of this, but it won’t be easy).

Newspaper readership has never been higher.  But the medium is changing. Soon, you may not get a deadwood edition of the paper in your driveway, but with the advent of iPads, eReaders and smartphones, electronic-editions of newspapers should flourish once publishers can get a handle on how to monetize those eyeballs on the Internet.  The New York Times and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire will likely lead the way.  And there was a time we all gladly paid for content on the Internet; remember those AOL and CompuServe and Prodigy services that track our time spent online?

For the Register to thrive, it needs to recognize the political make up on the county has changed dramatically.  Orange County is not the Red County it once was.  And the best liberals and progressives can hope for is a “reader rebuttal.”  This has to change to get new readers.

The New York Times has a policy for its “Letters to the editor” section – conservative writers have a greater chance of having their letters published.  The Los Angeles Times carries columns by “Liberal Fascist” author Jonah Goldberg.  The conservative Wall Street Journal runs regular op-eds from leading liberal voices in its opinion section.  Why can’t the Register offer a voice to those with a center-left point of view?   Are they so convinced that liberals are completely wrong?  Are they afraid of offending their center-right readers?  Isn’t a newspaper supposed to provide a marketplace of ideas in it’s opinion section?

Technology, specifically disruptive technology, is changing the face of today’s newspaper.  Like any conservative, the Register’s editorial pages have two perfectly good legs but they refuse to move forward.  You can’t have a reasoned debate about the serious issues facing the cities in our county, our state and our nation if only one side is doing the talking.

  8 comments for “Will New Register Owners Recognize the Market They Currently Ignore?

  1. Jorgan
    May 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, I thought the missed market was Spanish (only) speaking illegal immigrants. But then they probably can’t read either.

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    May 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Please keep those sort of attitudes elsewhere. There are plenty of legal Latino immigrants here who read just fine and there’s a very active Spanish media presence in OC already.

  3. Ben
    May 3, 2010 at 12:10 am

    The OC register is so far Right, they shun even center principles. Their writing is barely pushing a fifth grade level and the columnist make terrible generalizations (i.e. Frumpy Mom).

    • Dan Chmielewski
      May 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

      Marla’s column is actually one of my favorites; any parent can identify with the issues she deals with.

  4. Debbie
    May 3, 2010 at 8:21 am

    It would be a real treat to see the Reg leave its opinions on the Opinion page and keep them out of the news pages. I want my newspaper to accurately and objectively report what happens. Verify what people say and report anything that doesn’t match verifiable facts. And yes, fairly represent the makeup of the county on the Opinion page. I would like to see the new owners have just as much enthusiasm for the debate as the old ones had for the right slant.

  5. rlh
    May 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Dan, I agree that what you dream of would be nice. But I don’t think it’ll ever happen without major bloodshed. Just last weekend the Register did its annual (at least) genuflection at the R.C Hoiles Cult of Personality – a man whose only failing as a human being is probably that he didn’t marry Ayn Rand and breed a new generation of ubermensches. No editorial board comprised of Landsbaum, Bock et al will ever deal honestly with facts or people who undermine their hermetically sealed belief in a libertarian Eden.

  6. Dan Chmielewski
    May 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Well, in my experience when the people at the top writing the checks change, other things change too. I’m not asking for a lot. One liberal columnist on Sunday against the 8 right wingers that run every Sunday. How about adding Doonesbury to go along with Mallard Fillmore? One step at a time.

  7. rlh
    May 4, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I know you’re not asking a lot, but then you’re a reasonable person. Landsbaum et al, quite simply, aren’t. The new owners may indeed try to implement changes, but any softening of the monotone radical right wing-ism of the paper will only be over the bodies of the present top guys, and as they’re carried out on their shields they’ll make such a atink that they’ll drive a goodly percentage of the present subscriber base (well, what’s left) away by screaming apostacy. Will a new owner be willing to take that risk? I wonder.

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