While the rest of the journalism world has been getting out of the print pool like swimmers in a lightning storm, the corporate owner of the Orange County Register has been diving in with abandon.

Following a 200-person hiring spree, the publication's boss says it will invade America's largest county by launching the Los Angeles Register, a daily newspaper.

Are you done scratching your head yet?

Boston-based Aaron Kushner, who is also the co-owner of parent company Freedom Communications, announced the new product at a “town-hall” meeting with employees of the Register yesterday.

“It will be a daily newspaper of not quite the heft of the Orange County Register,” he said.

Kusher told his workers that the L.A. Register would be staffed locally, meaning that there could be a hiring spree on the horizon.

He's bullish on newsprint, obviously.

Freedom purchased the Inland Empire's main daily, the Press-Enterprise, and launched the Long Beach Register during the summer — and then, last month, expanded that paper's publication schedule to include Sundays, not just weekdays.

The moves comprise a contrarian bet in a business that has largely been running toward the web to chase the advertising dollars as eyeballs have been abandoning print.

The most intriguing journalism launches in the U.S. in the last five years have been online-only, including Patch, The Daily Beast, Buzzfeed and Upworthy.

Freedom's expansion takes it into entrenched markets: Long Beach has a daily paper, the Press-Telegram, and has so far been unable to support its own alternative weekly newspaper. (Our sister publication, OC Weekly, also covers Long Beach extensively.)

Credit: Orange County was split off from L.A. County in 1889. This Orange County Archives map is from 1908.

Credit: Orange County was split off from L.A. County in 1889. This Orange County Archives map is from 1908.

In L.A., the nation's second-largest media market, the news has been about retrenchment, with the Los Angeles Times shrinking from the 1,500-employee powerhouse of international, national and regional reporting it was in the 1990s to the 500-journalist operation it is today.

Our town's media landscape includes numerous outlets such as the Valley-based Los Angeles Daily News; L.A. Weekly, the second-largest local news publication in terms of readership; and KPCC, a public radio station (89.3 FM) that has been expanding its online coverage amid ambitious goals.

More than two decades ago it was the Los Angeles Times — with editions in San Diego, Orange County, Ventura County and the San Fernando Valley — that was seeking to conquer the 18-million-person region known as Southern California.

Those dreams of a mega-paper for a megalopolis that starts nearly in Tijuana and reaches almost to Santa Barbara now seem like a relic from another time.

Media watchers have been wondering if Los Angeles and other cities can even support their dominant daily papers, counting down to the time when even haloed brands like the Times will go online-only.

Interestingly, there have been rumors just this month that Freedom, run by a Kushner-controlled trust, is losing hundreds of millions of dollars on its strange experiment.

This week he told staffers that his L.A. daily would launch “soon.”

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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