The Orange County Register, perhaps the largest “Libertarian” paper left in the nation, has been sold to a Massachusetts investor who acquired several other Freedom Communications dailies. The deal is expected to close in the next 30 days.
While the Register does a very nice job of covering their own acquisition, let’s turn instead to how this story is playing out in very Liberal Boston. Boston.com reports:
Aaron Kushner, the buyer who made part of his wealth in greeting cards, and the 2100 Trust, a group that includes former newspaper executives, earlier this year tried to buy Maine’s largest newspaper company, including the Portland Press Herald, but talks collapsed with the paper’s unions and management.
Kushner and the 2100 Trust in the past have expressed interest in buying the Boston Globe but has not had serious talks with the New York Times Co., according to people briefed on the matter.
Freedom’s hedge fund owners have been selling off its news assets since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2010. The company has recently announced the sale of its newspaper groups in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.
The company also sold eight TV stations last month to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $385 million, a deal that helped cover Freedom’s debt.
“The Freedom newspapers are among the best in the business with top notch reporters, editors, and business staff,” Kushner said in a statement. “We are honored to get to work with them and help support them. Our plans begin with serving our communities, and we will do everything we can to ensure the staff has all the resources necessary to continue producing great journalism.’’
He also said, “As we see opportunities to buy and support other compelling franchise newspapers we will actively pursue them.”
Politically speaking, the Register’s new owner has made financial contributions to President Obama and Vice President Biden as well as several Republican candidates. LA Observed expects him to be a hands on owner. Folks in Maine were a tad scared of Kusher’s political leanings.
More scary is Aaron Kushner. His donations include $4,600 to Obama, $1,000 to Biden and $2,000 to Howard Dean. Even scarier than Kushner is Peter Brodsky. He has recently donated $2,400 to Sen. Chuck Schumer, $4,800 to Harry Reid, and in 2008 he donated $2,300 to Mrs. Clinton, $2,300 to Obama, $2,100 to John Edwards (Ugh!) and thousands more to lesser Democratic candidates.
From this snippet on a 2011 Boston Magazine profile on Mr. Kushner:
A self-described Boston “newbie,” he lives in a $1.7 million house in Wellesley with his wife and three kids. After growing up in Georgia, he attended Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in organizational analysis, and starred on the gymnastics team. His first break came during the Internet bubble, when in 1999 he sold a company he’d started — MyMove.com, which allowed people to change their addresses online — to Imagitas, a business then based in Newton. It was that deal that eventually brought Kushner to the Boston area. A few years later, he and a business partner started looking around for other acquisitions, which led them to a greeting-card company in Wareham called Marian Heath. (Kushner’s grandfather and great-grandfather had both been in the greeting-card game.) Kushner and his partner bought Marian Heath in 2002 with funding from the Walnut Group, a Cincinnati investment company, and Kushner became CEO.
We hope this change in ownership recognizes some of the exceptional jouranlists and editors the Register has on hand. That, editorially speaking, the paper’s opinion pages become more broad in scope as opposed to narrow. Orange County is home to more than 500,000 registered Democrats, many who have given up on the paper due to a strong conservative bias on this editorial pages. Newspapers should be a place where converging ideas are debated and discussed. But “Freedom” communications can only restrict the speech from the left.
So one would hope a liberal columnist or two graces the pages. That science of global warming and climate change is reported accurately instead of reports denying its existance paid for by petroleum companies. That honest and open debate emerges from the left and the right. The LA Times runs Jonas Goldberg. The Wall Street Journal runs lefty columns on a regular basis. The New York Times has a policy to run more letters from conservatives than liberals.
And most importantly, we hope Mr. Kushner invests in the paper. You cannot get addition from subtraction — cutting journalists cuts the quality of news and readers will know it. Give us a good product, and we’ll buy it. Broaden the paper’s perspective and more readers will embrace it as a source of news about our home in Orange County.