The Orange County Business Journal is reporting that local mega-slumlord George Argyros is interested in buying the Orange County Register (we'd link to the OCBJ, but you have to pay to read the article–get with the 21st century, Rick Reiff!). This is a horrible idea, and not just because Argyros knows nothing about journalism and is notorious for buying properties and putting no money in them (best examples: Seattle Mariners during the 1980s, his apartments). It boils down to this: George Argyros supports censoring journalists.
How do I know? Because I suffered George's portly wrath.
In March 2004, a week after the deadly Madrid train bombings, I wrote an article haranguing Argyros–then the non-Spanish-speaking ambassador to Spain–for his role in forcing Spain to enter the War on Terror, a war opposed by nearly 90 percent of Spaniards. Two months later, Argyros was at Chapman University, my alma mater and a school where Argyros graduated from and was the longtime chair of the Board of Trustees. He was at Chapman to escort around former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, a gavilán (chicken hawk) if ever there was one. Athnar (spelling deliberate to emulate the Castilian lithp) gave a speech of some sort, and then was going to give a press conference.
I covered Athnar's speech, then went to the press conference. Before I could enter the room, Chapman's then-head of public relations, a diminutive creature by the name of Ruth Wardwell, told me I was banned from the press conference for my Argyros article. Apparently, Argyros was so infuriated by my piece that he demanded retribution, and his will was done to a formerly proud Chapman alumni.
I've received private apologies from Chapman administrators and teachers who remember me in the years since but never a public one from President Jim Doti (indeed, he once told students who wrote a never-published story on the incident that I “didn't reflect Chapman values”) or Argyros for their role in banning me from a press conference and setting a stellar example for their students. Fuck them, of course: I'm giving all my pennies to Orange Coast College when I retire.
But if Argyros pulled such petty stops at a university that he doesn't own to go against an enemy and protect his friends, imagine what he'd do with a newspaper. Consider all the connections he has with the lords of Orange County. The thought of an Argyros-owned Register should send chills down any lover of the free press. Argyros would make the pre-Otis Chandler Chandlers seem as unbiased as Jesus.