Names of 30 of the 32 OC Register Employees Laid Off--And Departing Reg Editor Sings A Song!: UPDATE

Go to the very bottom of page 3 for the latest updates. . .

ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 16, 10 A.M. Several sources--via planes, trains, automobiles, smoke signals and even via the Weekly's anonymous tipster line, which NO ONE ever uses--are telling us The Orange County Register will be laying off reporters AND editors today. In fact, it's happening as I type this.

If so, the grand dream of Freedom Communications publisher Aaron Kushner--that the way out of the death of newspapers is to hire dramatically up, expand the newspaper and set up an Internet paywall--is over. And reality has set in.

See also: With the Los Angeles Register, Will Owner Aaron Kushner Meet His Waterloo?

"Layoffs coming today," said our anonymous tipster. "Already several senior reporters talking about getting cut loose."

Sources are naming names of people scheduled for the chopping block, but we won't print those until we get confirmation. But what we're hearing is that those laid off will mostly be long-timers at the Reg and will total about 30.

We've sent requests for comment to editor Ken Brusic and Minister of Information Eric Morgan. Details to come . . . and Reg reporters: feel free to reach out to me at the email below. Anonymity guaranteed.

See Also: Claim: Aaron Kushner Losing "Millions and Millions" of Dollars on OC Register

FIRST UPDATE, 11:39 A.M.: Media watcher extraordinaire Jim Romensko reports that one of his sources is describing the layoffs as "a blood bath . . . nearly every top manager replaced."

And one of those managers? The person we asked for confirmation: Editor Ken Brusic, who has been with the paper in an editor's role since 1989 and the big enchilada since 1997. Sources tell us Brusic is falling on his own sword rather than implement the cuts Kushner demanded.

Brusic, at his office, in 2012
Brusic, at his office, in 2012
Photo by John Gilhooley

Although we had many differences with Brusic over the years, he was always gracious to all--gracious enough that he sat down with me for my story on the Register's resurgence back in 2012. And one quote in particular now stands out, not just because it was prophetic, but also because it's downright ominous for the rest of us in newspapers.

"Whatever happens, it will not be the people of the newsroom who will be part of [any] failure of that enterprise," he responded when I asked Brusic if he thought Kushner's hiring-up policy could succeed. "I worry about everything. . . . If we can't succeed, it can't succeed anywhere else."

In Brusic's place will be Rob Curley, who joined the Register a couple of years ago as a digital whiz kid. I'll have more names and a bit on Curley soon--but first, Little Saigon beckons for lunch . . . After the jump, a list of reporters who are leaving.

See Also: Aaron Kushner, Weenie OC Register Owner, Gets Mad at Reporter for Exposing Him as Unethical Weenie

 

Stuart Kushner: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone: people'll like me even after I lay them off!"
Stuart Kushner: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone: people'll like me even after I lay them off!"

UPDATE, 1:34 P.M.: Back from lunch--man, was that bún bò Hue good!

Here are some of the reporters we're hearing from sources as being laid off today, as well as what they did. The trend seems to be in letting go of high-priced vets, the kind with institutional knowledge. Will update this list with more names as they come:

*Ron Campbell: Campbell was the data part of the Reg's not-too-shabby investigative-reporter team. Among his accomplishments: taking down former Santa Ana Unified School District trustee Nativo Lopez.

*Cathleen Falsani Possley: Possley was one of the Register's much-ballyhooed new hires and given the task of writing a religion column. Her prose was great and signified that the Reg was serious about covering religion again. Now? Not so much.

*Ron Gonzales: Gonzales served as a city editor for nearly 20 years, then helped to start the popular OC Latino Link blog before being made into a general reporter. It was Ron who served as a mentor to many of the paper's Latino reporters over the years, and he was a newsroom favorite.

*Marla Jo Fisher: Fisher is another vet, with at least 20 years under her belt, I think. I remember her best as being a dogged cops and higher-ed reporter, but in recent years, she transitioned into a mommy columnist and the Deals Diva. The second-to-last time I talked to her, she blasted my criticism of her food writing; the last time, she was far nicer. Then, as before, I told her I remain her fan.

*Larry Welbourn: The Register's legendary courts reporter has been there for more than 40 years. In his case, Larry took a buyout. Always a class act and (I think) OC's longest-running reporter after San Clemente guy Fred Swegles.

*Carlos Arias: Longtime presence in the sports section best known for his boxing and MMA writing.

*Dennis Foley: Another longtime Register presence who most recently served as the weekend editor and internship coordinator. I still remember Dennis as the ombudsman, back when newspapers had ombudsmen. Involved in the OC Press Club for years, he is currently the president; always a class act.

*Jason Eichelberger: OC Varsity Sports reporter. Why is the Reg chopping down on its sports department, especially at the high school level? That's the one area where it truly dominates all.

*David Bean: Assistant sports editor for many years, he oversaw the high school and college coverage. Took a buyout.

UPDATE, 4:26 P.M. I actually had the below memo since it was issued, but was driving; I'm writing this from the side of a road right now. Goddamn it, can't news wait for me to get drunk? Anyhoo, here's Kushner's justificiation after the jump--I'll have analysis mañana  

Kushner, at an OC Press Club in 2012
Kushner, at an OC Press Club in 2012
Photo by Kevin Liu

To all associates: When we came to the Register some 18 months ago, we made an explicit commitment that we were going to take the challenges and opportunities head-on to put our newspaper on a permanently profitable path of growth.

We are an institution dating back over 100 years, and in that time many talented journalists and business people have played their roles in assuring the vitality of our newspapers and our community.

Ken Brusic is certainly in the upper echelon of those people. Each of us have been touched by Ken in our own ways, often and likely in ways that will stay with us for a long time. With full and grateful hearts we thank Ken for his leadership, inspiration and dedication over two decades as he concludes his tenure this week as our Editor.

We also want to thank and recognize the contributions of Rebecca Allen, Terry Moore and Brenda Shoun who will be passing their leadership to a new team.

Congratulations to Rob Curley who will be our new Editor. Many of you already know and appreciate the energy, intelligence and heart that Rob brings every day.

Congratulations to our new senior content management team reporting to Rob:

Donna Wares will be our Managing Editor whose responsibilities will include overseeing the LA Register;

John Fabris will be our Deputy Editor/Operations; Steve Green will be our Assistant Managing Editor/Local;

Todd Harmonson will be our Assistant Managing Editor/Sports;

Helayne Perry will be our Assistant Managing Editor/Design;

Marcia Prouse will be our Assistant Managing Editor/Visuals;

and Jeff S. Miller will be heading our Features team.

This is quite a team of leaders. They will give everything they have to fulfill the promise of what the Register can be, leading one of the most talented newsrooms in the country.

As we finish our year, we take stock in all that we have accomplished. We evaluate what worked well and what did not. And then we prepare for making 2014 a year of profitable growth. Today we concluded a difficult but important restructuring of our OC Register content team that reflects our assessment of what our content team looks like to tackle the next phase of our growth in Orange County and LA County.

The 32 friends and colleagues leaving us have helped the Register navigate through some very challenging times. We are grateful for their service.

We enter 2014 with real opportunities and real challenges. We have significant continued opportunities in Orange County with growing subscription, local advertising and digital revenue as we work to hone and improve how we produce a great newspaper and the quality of that newspaper. We have significant new opportunities as we bring our brand of local, community building newspapering to Los Angeles with the LA Register.

We will start the next leg of our growth with approximately 370 content team members covering Orange County and LA County. This is up from 198 team members just eighteen months ago and makes our newsroom one of the largest metro newsrooms in the country. Over the past 18 months we have added more journalists to our team than every other newspaper in the country combined, and we have increased the breadth and depth of the value that we provide to our subscribers at a breathtaking pace.

On behalf of everyone in our business and in our community, thank you for your understanding, hard work and commitment. Let's build on the foundation we've established to continue to grow in 2014.

Sincerely,

Aaron Kushner Publisher

UPDATE, JAN. 17, 3:51 P.M.: Here's the fullest list we have--I've copied the ones I had above, and added some more, along with comments. Adding Brusic's secretary, That's 30 out of the 32 announced. Keep 'em coming, sources:

*Ron Campbell: Campbell was the data part of the Reg's not-too-shabby investigative-reporter team. Among his accomplishments: taking down former Santa Ana Unified School District trustee Nativo Lopez.

*Cathleen Falsani Possley: Possley was one of the Register's much-ballyhooed new hires and given the task of writing a religion column. Her prose was great and signified that the Reg was serious about covering religion again. Now? Not so much.

*Ron Gonzales: Gonzales served as a city editor for nearly 20 years, then helped to start the popular OC Latino Link blog before being made into a general reporter. It was Ron who served as a mentor to many of the paper's Latino reporters over the years, and he was a newsroom favorite.

*Marla Jo Fisher: Fisher is another vet, with at least 20 years under her belt, I think. I remember her best as being a dogged cops and higher-ed reporter, but in recent years, she transitioned into a mommy columnist and the Deals Diva. The second-to-last time I talked to her, she blasted my criticism of her food writing; the last time, she was far nicer. Then, as before, I told her I remain her fan.

*Larry Welbourn: The Register's legendary courts reporter has been there for more than 40 years. In his case, Larry took a buyout. Always a class act and (I think) OC's longest-running reporter after San Clemente guy Fred Swegles.

*Carlos Arias: Longtime presence in the sports section best known for his boxing and MMA writing.

*Dennis Foley: Another longtime Register presence who most recently served as the weekend editor and internship coordinator. I still remember Dennis as the ombudsman, back when newspapers had ombudsmen. Involved in the OC Press Club for years, he is currently the president; always a class act.

*Jason Eichelberger: OC Varsity Sports reporter. Why is the Reg chopping down on its sports department, especially at the high school level? That's the one area where it truly dominates all.

*David Bean: Assistant sports editor for many years, he oversaw the high school and college coverage. Took a buyout.

Cheryl Hall: Web and copy editor, mostly moving what went in the homepage. She took a buyout.Brusic's executive assistant. She stepped down.

Matt Chazanov: Wires editor

Brenda Shoun: Deputy Editor

Terry Moore: Deputy news editor news

Rebecca Allen: Another deputy editor. Allen, Moore, and Shoun were part of Brusic's brain trust.

Mona Shadia: Community reporter who was supposed to write a column about life as a Muslim in OC. One of the Reg's much-ballyhooed steals from a year ago.

Gary Warner:: Longtime travel editor who consistently produced a spectacular section. This one is a head-scratcher.

Rose Palmisano: Longtime staff photographer. Can't remember any specific shots, but hers were always good.

Roger Bloom: Community editor for the Reg's much-ballyhooed community papers for Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Fountain Valley. Another stolen guy they played up.

Alan Gibbons: Food editor. Another head scratcher: the Register took rightful pride in its recent expansion. Couldn't they have offed Fancy Tuna instead?

Earl Bloom: From a source: "Earl Bloom, longtime OC Reg sports writer, announced a short time ago on his Facebook page that he got the ax. He's getting lots of kudos from inside and outside the industry. An all-around good guy. Not sure if he's related to Roger Bloom or not."

Marty Evans: Sports copy editor. Why is the Reg aiming for one of its most successful sections? And while I'm a big fan of columnists TJ Simers and Mark Heisler, is it that the rest of the department must pay for their salaries?

Kari Hall: Photo editor.

Julie Frady: Senior features designer

Mark Matassa: Government and politics editor.

Phil Metzger: "Team Leader," whatever the hell that is in Register-speak.

Nate Little: No clue on who he is...Trainee designer, whatever the hell that is in Register-speak.

Richard Ho: Senior Features Design and Illustration. Part of the Reg's hiring boom of 2012.

Mark Eades: Eight-year veteran who transitioned from covering South County to Stanton to become the head videographer for the paper.

Lance Jackson: Designer for Long Beach Register and OC Register. Are they starting to scale back their Long Beach experiment as well?

And now, Ken Brusic playing his guitar for his troops after the jump!

 

Read our entire OC Register Death Watch archives here.

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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