From the outset of Aaron Kushner’s reign as owner-publisher of the Orange County Register, we’ve been impressed by his willingness to engage not just the community but also outside reporters and critics.
In this latest example, Kushner took the initiative via email. The context for his correspondence with USC professor Marc Cooper and website Voice of OC was an old journalism axiom, a pair of articles by Adam Elmahrek and a related Romenesko report of some March 6 newsroom comments by Kushner.
Last night, Voice of OC published two emails sent by Kushner (one to both Cooper and Voice of OC, one to just Cooper) as well as Cooper’s response. From Kushner’s first email:
There are many ways a newspaper serves its community. One important way is by holding those in power accountable for their use of that power. That is why in just the last six months the Register has hired more investigative reporters and journalists to cover city halls and Orange County business and political leaders than every other newspaper in America combined. How we cover those in power with one of the largest watchdog and beat reporting teams in the country is about getting it right, which includes tone. I agree with Marc that there is no dichotomy between being respectful and having robust coverage of our community and those who lead it.
We’ll leave it up to individual readers to decide how important it is for a 21st century daily newspaper owner to be fully familiar with a saying originated by either H.L. Mencken or a wise old bartender of yore. Meanwhile, Elmahrek confirms this morning to FishbowlLA that he did not get explicit permission from Kushner to publish the emails.
“Kushner’s [first] email arrived after our [March 14] article was published, so we asked Kushner if he would like us to publish his email as a letter to the editor,” Elmahrek writes. “Twenty minutes after we sent Kushner our note, Cooper sent us the exchange he had with Kushner. We never received specific permission to publish the email exchange Cooper sent to us. We never received a response from Kushner. We didn’t feel we needed permission at that point.”