LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The owner of the Orange County Register plans a new daily newspaper in Los Angeles, the boldest step yet in an expansion across Southern California that emphasizes printed publications while others in the industry are focusing on digital.
The new seven-day-a-week paper will be known as the Los Angeles Register, Freedom Communications CEO Aaron Kushner told The Associated Press on Thursday night, a few hours after announcing the move to his staff in the Orange County Register’s newsroom.
In addition, Kushner said the Register would open an unspecified number of Los Angeles community weeklies.
Kushner didn’t give many specifics about plans for the paper but said it will be launched “quickly” and will be widely distributed in Los Angeles County. The Register’s story said the paper would begin publication early next year.
The announcement follows Freedom’s recent purchase of the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the largest daily newspaper in California’s Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, and last summer’s launch of a new daily newspaper in Long Beach, a city of 470,000 between Orange County and Los Angeles.
Ken Doctor, a newspaper industry analyst with Outsell Inc., said the move may be an attempt to find new revenue to cover Freedom’s fast-growing costs, but it’s startling nonetheless.
“Aaron Kushner and Freedom Communications are making the most contrarian play in American newspapers,” Doctor said. “While newspapers overall are receding and retracting and cutting, he is in expansionist mode.”
Kushner purchased the Orange County Register in July 2012 and immediately went on a hiring binge, adding 200 people and greatly expanding the number of pages in each day’s paper.
He said the new LA Register will share Orange County’s content in sports and other areas with regional relevance, but emphasized it will be a distinct entity with a Los Angeles office. The staff will be made up mainly of existing Register employees with some new hires.
“It will be the LA Register, not the Orange County Register,” Kushner said in a phone interview. “We’re not a national paper, we are a local community-building paper, so that means having local people in the community they’re covering.”
Shortly after the announcement, Orange County Register staffers received an email asking about their interest in covering Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times’ last citywide daily competitor, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, folded in 1989, and while plans for startups have been proposed since, all have faltered. In recent years the Daily News of Los Angeles has pulled back and focused on the suburbs north of the city.
Kushner said he believes there is a place for a paper with a different emphasis and perspective.
“We think the LA Times is a great national newspaper. We are a very different kind of newspaper,” Kushner said. “Obviously, we have a very different political perspective. We’re not liberal and we’re not reactionary. We believe in free markets.”
Asked to respond, Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said in an email, “Our first and foremost mission is serving Southern California, as we have for 132 years.”
Freedom’s $27.2 million purchase of the Press-Enterprise from Dallas-based A.H. Belo closed last month.