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Reporter Buys Business Newspaper : Acquisition: A former Los Angeles Times journalist purchased the central-county Metropolitan Journal from founder Drew Lawler for an undisclosed amount.


NEWPORT BEACH — A veteran Orange County journalist has acquired Metropolitan Journal, a twice-monthly business newspaper serving central Orange County, from founder Drew Lawler for an undisclosed sum.

Steven R. Churm, a former Times Orange County reporter, said the acquisition was made with backing from his father, Peter Churm, who is chairman of Furon Co., a large Laguna Niguel industrial products manufacturer. But he emphasized that Furon was not involved in the deal and that Peter Churm is "strictly a silent investor."

Lawler, who founded Metropolitan Journal in 1981, said he decided to sell the publication to focus his attention on World Trade, a monthly international business magazine that he launched two years ago.

Metropolitan Journal, with a circulation of 32,000, is distributed free, primarily to offices and shopping centers in Irvine, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Churm said it was profitable, but he declined to provide financial details.

Churm, 35, said he hoped to "add an edge to the editorial content" of the publication, which has traditionally taken a soft approach to local business news and personalities. "I'd like to be more aggressive, to take a look at some of the more complicated issues and problems impacting the business community," he said.

The paper's coverage will be broadened somewhat to include political developments that are important to business, Churm said, and staff expansion is under consideration. The current staff of 13, including editor Thomas Vasich, will remain in place.

Churm said a shift to weekly publication is a possibility but that his first priority is to "ensure a smooth transition." Any major changes are probably at least six months away, he added.

After 12 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, including the last five years at The Times, Churm said he is "ready for a new challenge." He added: "There's a great need for a strong, business-oriented publication in Orange County, and Metropolitan Journal represents a great start."

One source in the local publishing industry said that he was approached by Lawler several years ago about buying Metropolitan Journal for $1 million and that Lawler seemed adamant at the time about getting that price. He judged that the paper "has as good a potential as any other business publication in the county."

Metropolitan Journal's competitors for readers and advertisers include a revitalized Orange County Business Journal, as well as weekly community publications, such as Irvine World News, and daily newspapers. Metropolitan Journal's longtime editor, William Lobdell, left the paper earlier this year to become editor of the Orange Coast Daily Pilot.

Lawler said that World Trade magazine, with a circulation of 45,000, is profitable and "didn't need the cash" from the Metropolitan Journal sale. But he noted that both publications should benefit from having the undivided attention of their owners.

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