Media Matters for America Savages OC Register's New College Section, Alleging Pay-for-Play
I finally got a copy of the "new" Orange County Register yesterday, magically finding an extant copy in downtown San Clemente, and an amazing thing happened: it took me four minutes to read the paper, instead of the usual three. WOW, tens of millions of dollars spent to marginally upgrade the product! The front page section was still a collection of cobbled-together wire stories; the Local section, just a quick Mickadeit read and unreadable op-ed pieces. The only parts worth reading were the reviews of food critic Brad A. Johnson--but favoring El Farolito over 301 Cafe for great Placentia Cal-Mex? WEAK SALSA...
And then their was their horrid college section. Every Monday through Wednesday, the Reg devotes a special pullout section each day to Cal State Fullerton, Chapman University, and UC Irvine, who just happen to have big ol' ads in said sections to the tune of nearly a million dollars.
People who care about media ethics have been blasting Register owner Aaron Kushner for the shadiness of it all, and the latest is Media Matters for America, a decidedly liberal website that tracks conservative bias in the media. Earlier this week, they published a scathing report, "How A California Newspaper Took $825,000 To Shill For Local Colleges" and asked Kushner for comment. Instead of answering, the Stuart Smalley of daily newspapers gave his usual response: we're expanding the newspaper, gosh darnit, so like us! But "asked again to specifically comment on claims of conflict of interest and credibility," Media Matters reporter Joe Strupp wrote, "Kushner's office did not respond."
I've only seen the Cal State Fullerton section, and it's a joke of a section (full disclosure: I'm a lecturer at the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies there). There was an op-ed from CSUF head Mildred Garcia, another section written by a professor, a story about some student who tries out racing cars, a MEChA conference, and a little calendar. No scandal (of which there is always a bunch at ANY college), no skepticism: just one big sloppy soplón of a section. Millions of dollars spent to feed feel-good banalities to a county that demands them? BRILLIANT. Meanwhile, actual reporters within the Register are furious at this arrangement--but that's a story for another time...
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