What NOT Afflicting The Comfortable Looks Like at the OC Register

hear-see-speak-no-evilLast week, on Wednesday, Voice of OC published a story about comments made by Orange County Register Publisher Aaron Kushner to his staff that their job was “not to afflict the comfortable.” That story followed on the heals of another Voice of OC report about the Orange County Register refusing to accept any political advertising that attacks the actions of elected officials by name, in this case targeting Anaheim City Council members Kris Murray and Gail Eastman.

On Thursday, Voice of OC broke the story about the questionable contract that former Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly granted his protege, Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman, when Brandman left the agency to campaign for his city council seat. To date, the contract that has been characterized as worthless by Supervisor Spitzer, is almost nine months overdue. The controversy the contract, its quality, necessity and value compared to the more than $26,000 cost if completed, sparked a damning followup story in Voice of OC today.

In today’s story, investigative reporter Adam Elmaherk points out that “An entire section of a government draft report prepared by Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman while he was campaigning for his council seat last year appears to largely have been copied from the Wikipedia entry on Orange County.” The cut and paste nature is so obvious that even the errors in the Wikipedia report from an earlier version were included in his version.

So how does this relate to the Register you might ask? Kushner has touted his recent hiring of additional investigative reporters into the Register family since he took over, as an indication that his comments about afflicting the comfortable did not meant that the publication will not be holding elected officials accountable for their actions. In an email exchange on the subject reported by Voice of OC Kushner writes:

“We understand the role, the full role, of newspapers. We believe that newspapers exist to serve their communities, not afflict them. The word “afflict” connotes malice and infliction of pain. One cannot afflict a community that one is trying to serve.

There are many ways a newspaper serves its community. One important way is by holding those in power accountable for their use of that power. That is why in just the last six months the Register has hired more investigative reporters and journalists to cover city halls and Orange County business and political leaders than every other newspaper in America combined. How we cover those in power with one of the largest watchdog and beat reporting teams in the country is about getting it right, which includes tone. I agree with Marc that there is no dichotomy between being respectful and having robust coverage of our community and those who lead it.”

blog-no-evilWe are hoping that the failure of the Register to even mention this story in its pages thus far is simply the publication is simply about “getting it right;” and not an example of what happens to investigative reporting in a publication, no matter how large the staff, when the Publishers admonish their reporters that they “shouldn’t afflict the comfortable.”

  4 comments for “What NOT Afflicting The Comfortable Looks Like at the OC Register

  1. Ryan Cantor
    March 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Had the draft report been turned in at any one of the numerous universities in Orange County, the author would have received an “F” on the assignment and possibly dismissed from the University as a consequence for his plagiarism.

    The county, in contrast, just issued a check. Love it.

  2. March 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Huh.

    In today’s story, investigative reporter Adam Elmaherk points out that “An entire section of a government draft report prepared by Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman while he was campaigning for his council seat last year appears to largely have been copied from the Wikipedia entry on Orange County.” The cut and paste nature is so obvious that even the errors in the Wikipedia report from an earlier version were included in his version.

    Ironically, this may solve the Register’s “unwillingness to afflict the comfortable” problem. Whatever else Jordan is right now, I doubt that he is comfortable, so wouldn’t that mean that they’d be justified in leaving him alone?

  3. Editorial Staff
    March 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Greg,

    The Orange County Register is the only daily print “news” publication covering all of Orange County. While the Voice of OC makes elected official uncomfortable, the OC Register really gets under their skin. Their failure to even mention the story, much less follow it, says volumes about the impact of Kushner’s direction to staff.

    Their silence is helping keep the comfortable in their happy places a little while longer.

  4. March 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Greg was joking. But how well or poorly Jordan Brandman is sleeping this week isn’t the question – he is the loyal servant of the most comfortable people in Anaheim – Curt Pringle and his clients, Disney, and SOAR. These are the most comfortable people in the OC’s biggest city (who call THEMSELVES “Masters of the Universe”) and sorely cry out for “affliction” from the County’s monopoly daily, even if its publisher never heard the phrase before and thinks it sounds unpleasant.

    By the way the phrase has been credited from everyone from British preachers to Mark Twain to Mary “Mother” Jones, but it looks like it started here:

    Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936), a humorist, coined the phrase “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” – I’ve always heard it in the context of ministry, but he was talking about newspapers. He put it in the mouth of his character Mr. Dooley. Here’s the full quote:

    “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead, and roasts them afterward.”

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