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"I hope it works," says Jennifer Muir, a former Register county-government reporter who's now the assistant general manager at the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA). Kushner invited her and OCEA head Nick Berardino to his offices recently, part of a strategy to host county movers and shakers and ask what they need of the Register. "I think that Aaron seems to have some very good ideas, and with his focus on good journalism, I can only be hopeful. And maybe it's naive of me—I don't know—but I believe that good journalism is important, and if a paper invests in good journalism, it has a shot of surviving. And that's what it appears it's doing."
Kushner is already proclaiming success. In September, he sent out a memo trumpeting the fact the Register's daily home delivery had increased 3.4 percent over the previous year, even as the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show a slight dip for daily circulation and digital subscriptions from March to September of this year.
"If you have friends and colleagues who you believe can help us grow, please share the opportunity with them and encourage them to reach out directly to Ken Brusic or any of our deputy editors," Kushner wrote. "We have openings in almost every area of our content group, and if someone fabulous comes through and we don't have a specific opening, we'll do our best to make one."
And that's exactly what attendees hoped for at the end of Kushner's Press Club speech. A phalanx of people lined up to meet him, some with résumés in hand. He was all smiles and confidence. If they couldn't meet Kushner, they sought out other Register reporters and editors—anyone who could get them into the Promised Land.
This article appeared in print as "The Pied Piper of Print: Can Aaron Kushner save The Orange County Register and transform journalism in the process?"