Back in the glory days of newspaper journalism, the Los Angeles Times boasted some 100 staffers in Orange County and the paper consistently beat the Orange County Register on its home turf. Then the industry imploded under the combined weight of Craigslist, rising paper costs, and online content competition. Layoffs ensued, leaving the nation's second largest newspaper with just a skeleton crew at its Costa Mesa-based OC bureau.
But the golden age is here again, or at least so says Times Assistant Managing Editor Ashley Dunn, who announced the newspaper's glorious return to OC in a memo published on the newspaper's blog and swiftly picked up by LAObserved and FishbowlLA. But just how real is the revamp?
According to Dunn, the Times is doubling down on its three-person OC bureau by “hiring” another trio of reporters–Rick Rojas, Tony Barboza, and Jeff Gottlieb, who along with Ruben Vives won last year's Pulitzer Prize for his expose on corruption in the South LA city of Bell. The expanded team will be headed by editor Steve Marble, who previously worked as a city editor in the bureau.
In fact, however, the new staffers aren't really being “hired,” since they already work for the newspaper; they're just being reassigned. Moreover, in an email, Gottlieb, who's been covering South Bay since leaving an editing job with the OC bureau a few years ago, said he'd been assured his job isn't really changing and that he'll simply “dip into OC when there was stuff to look at.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dunn's memo: he seems to be betting that OC will continue to provide readers with enough insanity to justify the expansion.
“The goal,” he explains, “is to function as a state bureau. So the coverage will be more sweeping–a mix of trend stories , analysis and culture pieces that say something about Orange County as well as the world beyond. And when news breaks–whether it be a salon massacre, a homeless killing spree or the all-too-familiar wildfires, we'll be better equipped than ever to cover it.”