I say this with all sincerity: I want newish Orange County Register owner Aaron Kushner's grand media experiment–invest in print and hire up instead of down–to succeed. Not only will it create a better daily in a county that desperately needs one, but it might also convince other newspaper owners to do the same. I have friends at the Reg, and I want them to have jobs five years from now.
Yet the love affair that Kushner and his columnists have for Kushner is becoming embarrassing. Kushner's adoration of his messianic self-reflection is evident to anyone who talks to him for just a second–but it's one thing to have a self-aggrandizing owner (the Weekly had the greatest of them all in Mike Lacey, a perpetually drunk mick who let the world know he was a perpetually drunk mick), quite another to have the owner allow his writers to continually pen valentines to him in print and online.
In my cover story from last month on Kushner, I mentioned Inside the OC Register, one of the few blogs that Kushner has decided not to cut–I wonder why? Maybe because the sole purpose is to let readers know how wonderful the Reg is by announcing its latest hire and repeating Kushner's mantra as if they're Hare Krishnas attempting to reach nirvana?
That wasn't as bad as the Thanksgiving Day column penned by longtime columnist Frank Mickadeit in which he thanked Kushner for making him "feel more like a newspaperman than I have in years." And while Mickadeit very well might feel that way–and it's good for him to feel that way, as the public can only take so many more columns of him attending law school at Chapman University–it was such an obvious ploy for a bone from Kushner that it worked: Inside OC Register blogger Eric Morgan would go on to write "Always-outspoken columnist Frank Mickadeit is among the believers in the Register building," which is about as newsworthy for the Reg to cover as me writing Feral Ferguson likes to cover weird shit. A writer affirming the owner's supposed brilliance? Stop the presses!
The latest tongue bath came this week courtesy of 2012 Scariest Person David Whiting. His column this Monday was tame in comparison to Mickadeit's gusher, and he was nice enough to quote us quoting Register editor Ken Brusic, but the column is more of the same: Kushner's great, the Register is awesome, this plan is magnificent, lah-dee-dah. Hell, even Whiting wrote as such by saying " admittedly this column's a kiss."
Again: I want the Register's plan to succeed. Competition is always great for papers, and we at this infernal rag are more than ready to take on a rejuvenated Reg. But, really: all the auto-eroticism? I remind ustedes of one of journalism's great mantras: show, don't tell. So far, Kushner has shown the goods–but all this telling us about it makes me wonder…