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Feature Stories

Two Daily Papers Now Duke It Out

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 17
8/23/2013


By Kirt Ramirez

Eric Spitz and Aaron Kushner have picked a fight with the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The east coast investors purchased the Orange County Register about a year ago and now have brought that newspaper to Long Beach under the name Long Beach Register. The paper debuted Monday in news racks and in some driveways where the OC Register is already delivered.

The Long Beach Register is nothing more than a Long Beach insert wrapped around the entire OC Register. If a person buys the Long Beach Register – which costs more than the Press-Telegram – they will get the Orange County newspaper along with it.

The Long Beach portion of pages sits atop the OC Register Monday through Friday. But the Long Beach Register does not publish on Saturday and Sunday. For those days the OC Register alone will be available.

The paper will try to compete with the Press-Telegram – established in 1897 – as well as smaller community newspapers in this unprecedented situation.

Kushner, who is CEO of the media group that owns the OC Register – Freedom Communications – was asked in an e-mail why the Register is coming to Long Beach.

“We made the decision to expand our services to Long Beach because we believe that Long Beach is a large, vibrant and important city that we could do a great job for and that would welcome our brand of newspapering.”

In cut-throat fashion, several reporters and a photographer vanished from the Press-Telegram and now appear at the Long Beach Register, including Greg Mellen, Kelly Puente, Bob Keisser, Jody Collins and Jeff Gritchen.

The Beachcomber received confirmation from one of those reeled-in that higher pay was a factor in leaving the Press-Telegram. “It’s more money,” the staffer said during a personal conversation, adding that it was a tough decision.

The OC Register reported July 25 that Kushner and Spitz have “no newspaper experience” and have increased OC Register staff numbers, added more pages, launched and expanded other publications and began charging a fee for the OC Register’s website, in the first year of owning Freedom Communications.

They hired Ian Lamont to be the Long Beach Register publisher. He served as publisher for the Press-Telegram from 2001 to 2004.

The Long Beach Business Journal has published four articles promoting the Long Beach Register so far since July 1 – more than any other local newspaper. However, Business Journal publisher George Economides did not disclose in those articles that Lamont is a friend who has contributed a few non-paid columns in the past and that Lamont’s sons, Evan and Shawn, run the Business Journal’s website under the Lamont Group – a company owned by Lamont’s youngest son.

“My sons are partners and handle all of the Long Beach Business Journal online activities but I have nothing to do with it,” Lamont said.

Lamont was asked by phone to explain his relationship with the Business Journal and said of his youngest son, “He’s the one who has the relationship with George (Economides).” Lamont was annoyed with the questions and said “You’re beating this to death.”
So you never talk to Economides? “I talk to him all the time,” Lamont responded.

Meanwhile, the 117-year old Press-Telegram has stepped up its coverage of local news; hired new talent, re-designed its website and improved the overall product. And the Press-Telegram has joined forces with the Grunion Gazette regarding advertising. Both newspapers are owned by Digital First Media.

Tim Grobaty, Joe Segura, Stephen Carr, Phillip Zonkel, Karen Robes-Meekes and others are staying at the Press-Telegram, including news legend Rich Archbold, who has covered Long Beach for the Press-Telegram for 35 years.

Asked if he’s scared or nervous about the Register coming to town, Archbold replied: “Not at all. What’s there to be scared of?”

Archbold, 75, grew up in Lombard Illinois, a Chicago suburb. He was editor of his high school newspaper, editor at the University of Illinois, where he attended and covered news in Nebraska and Florida before coming to Long Beach.

Press-Telegram’s Larry Allison called Archbold in 1978 to offer a managing-editor position.

“I’ve always loved journalism,” said the old-school writer, who today serves as public editor. “I was born with ink in my blood.”

Asked how he feels that several Press-Telegram reporters left to go to the Long Beach Register, Archbold said, “Sometimes in life you have to make a choice and that’s the choice they made. They’re good people and I respect them.”

The Beachcomber e-mailed Long Beach Register editor Paul Eakins – who worked for the Press-Telegram from 2007 to 2013 – four times over three days and called once. He acknowledged receiving the e-mails and voice mail but said he was busy.

His LinkedIn account shows no record of him being in Long Beach prior to 2007. He attended the University of Kansas, taught English classes in Mexico for three years and worked for a number of media organizations. Eakins was born in 1975, according to his MyLife account.

During an open house at the Press-Telegram’s downtown, 300 Oceangate office, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, Police Chief Jim McDonnell and other Press-Telegram readers stood together as Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster cheered for the home team:

“I have noticed a difference lately. There’s a lot more local coverage and I know you guys are about to face some competition. I have every confidence you guys are gonna do well with it.

“It’s a great paper. It’s got a great tradition and I think you guys are poised to do well in it.

“And I think everyone here who I work with feels the same way. You’re doing a great job and we want you around for another hundred years.”

kirt@longbeachcomber.com