Not that long ago, the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times were embroiled in a bitter circulation battle that resulted in huge resources being pumped into this region, competing "hyper-local" community papers popping up like weeds and both papers reaping the spoils of some of the highest advertising rates in the country.
My, how times have changed. With the daily print newspaper industry in major retreat mode, the Times has left only a skeleton crew at its Orange County headquarters on Sunflower Avenue in Costa Mesa. While owner Sam Zell has yet to carry through with a previously revealed desire to snatch up the Register--which just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week--the Times will soon be distributing the Register and they already jointly produce a weekly advertising supplement.
As the air of uncertainty hangs over the newsroom on Sunflower and its Register counterpart on Grand Avenue in Santa Ana like a stale elephant fart, wags get to talking and surmising and rumor-izing. One that's getting some heat in both dens has the Register selling its iconic building on Grand and moving into leased space at the now roomy Times Sunflower facility, which would include use of the Times' state-of-the-art press.
Whoever has been left at the Times OC (the last one presumably to turn out the lights), which also includes the staffs of the Daily Pilot that covers Costa Mesa and Newport Beach and the Huntington Beach Independent, would be shoved into a faraway corner under the scenario getting lip service. Another variation on the rumor has Irvine-based Freedom Communications, the Register's parent company, moving into Sunflower offices as well.
Why, it'll be like one big happy depressed dysfunctionally shit-smirked family!
"We've been hearing the Reg will move in to the bottom floor, the Times and Pilot/HBI adverts, reporters, etc. will be on the second floor," emailed a Piloteer. "But I've been hearing that for MONTHS."
"I don't know anything about this" was the official word from Nancy Sullivan, the vice president of communications at the Times and the paper's spokesperson, when asked about the rumored move.
Sullivan suggested the same question be put to her counterpart at the Register, Eric Morgan. It has been. Twice by email, once by phone. The Register's communications manager has yet to communicate an answer.
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Among those who would have to come up with answers on the logistics of such a move are the pressmen who actually print the papers. The joint distribution agreement allowed the Register to cut some jobs involved with delivering and warehousing papers. Presumably, leasing the Times' Orange County press would cause a similar reduction in manpower.
"The Register has leased three offices at the Times' Costa Mesa facility," said a source involved with printing the Times and who, for job security, asked not to be identified. "Another oddity, newsprint is being stored at the Times' Costa Mesa facility from the Register."
That does not necessarily mean that the whole Register operation is being packed into a Suburban bound for Costa Mesa. The Times' Los Angeles plant prints Barrons, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, but no one on their editorial staffs got a desk on Spring Street in LA out of it.
Then again, considering what is happening today versus just a decade ago, few would be surprised if the rumors become fact. By becoming the Times' largest commercial delivery client, the Register has saved a reported "seven figures a year." Moving out of one box on Grand Avenue to another on Sunflower Avenue may just be the kind of out-of-the-box thinking both newspaper companies desperately need.