The Orange County Register emerged from bankruptcy last week with a new set of corporate owners. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â The New York Times and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire will likely lead the way. Â 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. Â Orange County is not the Red County it once was. Â And the best liberals and progressives can hope for is a “reader rebuttal.” Â 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. Â The Los Angeles Times carries columns by “Liberal Fascist” author Jonah Goldberg. Â The conservative Wall Street Journal runs regular op-eds from leading liberal voices in its opinion section. Â Why can’t the Register offer a voice to those with a center-left point of view? Â Are they so convinced that liberals are completely wrong? Â Are they afraid of offending their center-right readers? Â 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. Â Like any conservative, the Register’s editorial pages have two perfectly good legs but they refuse to move forward. Â 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.