If there was one group of Orange County Register reporters that was nearly universally opposed to the erection of a paywall earlier this year, it was its sports team, the one section of the newspaper we have consistently cited as great–because it is. With the exception of the paper's film critic, their coverage of the region's major-league teams and Division I colleges is the only one that attracts a national audience–and that national audience disappeared once they had to pay for articles. As a result, the Reg's sports reporters have grumbled to their peers and to bosses, all without avail.
Now comes word that one of their most popular columnists, award-winning Los Angeles Lakers reporter Kevin Ding, is jumping ship for the sports website Bleacher Report–and while I'm sure money was ultimately the motivating factor, sources tell the Weekly that Ding had been one of the loudest critics of the Reg's paywall in the newsroom.
In fact, when fellow Register Lakers writer Janis Carr announced Ding's departure on Twitter yesterday afternoon, just minutes after Reg editor's announced Ding decision, the reaction from fans was telling:
To which Carr lamely replied:
@NBAPlayaLAL Gotta make money
— janis carr (@janiscarr) September 6, 2013
Hey, Janis: Bleacher Report gives it ALL AWAY FOR FREE. And makes mucho money, too!
Sources tell the Weekly that Ding wasn't happy with other nanny-state moves by the Register that cracked down exclusively on the sports section. Reporters are now required to inform their bosses of any freelancer offers, which Ding was for Bleacher Report since the beginning of the year. They've also reportedly told sportswriters (like Ding) to stop tweeting links to their stories via Sulia, a social-networking services that pays users per click, and start tweeting the Reg's blocked URLs.
Ding has yet to return an email for comment, and I doubt he will. But he was one of the good guys over at the Reg since he came in 1999–hell, I've been reading him for so long that I still remember his original picture as a rail-thin kid instead of the adult photo he use today. Dish us all the deets when you have a chance, Kevin, and glad you're getting your audience back!