Yesterday, the Orange County Press Club hosted a panel featuring the newest kids on the Orange County media block: Orange County Register publisher Terry Horne, KDOC-TV Channel 56 news director (and former Register reporter) Jeff Rowe, and our own editor Ted Kissell. Each gave their impressions of the Orange County market to an audience of about 50 at Memphis' Santa Ana location. But the real revelations came during the question-and-answer session, and it was courtesy of current and former Register reporters grilling their new boss.
First up was longtime Reg staffer John Gittelsohn, who asked Horne where was he going to find all the cheaply paid reporters to create the type of hyper-localized product Horne wants the Reg to become. Gittleson was referring the Register's notorious habit of hiring kids straight out of college to cover serious issues while buying out longtimers. Horne didn't really answer the question: instead, he raved about the college interns who filed stuff for the online edition of Arizona Republic, noting in particular that one of the Republic's most-read articles in the past couple of years was a couple of paragraphs about a chicken catching on fire.
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Next was former Register reporter (and current Irvine Company spokeshole-but-nevertheless-good-guy) Bill Rams. Rams' query was simple: would there be more buyouts at the Register? Again, Horne didn't answer. Instead, he babbled about having to deal with a deficit in the millions and trying to figure out how to reduce spending without further demoralizing the paper's reporters. In other words: HELL YES. "Sometimes, I wish I was still in sunny Phoenix," Horne lamely cracked. No one laughed. As one onlooker noted, "Look at the faces of the [Register] reporters." The faces were mad.