NORMAN CHANDLER (THE FAMILY THAT FOUNDED THE LOS ANGELES TIMES) ON THE COVER LIFE – WHEN THE LA TIMES WAS A GREAT NEWSPAPER
SAM ZELL (THE MAN WHO BOUGHT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES). He was called the “L.A. Times wrecking ball…” by the Washington Post.
“For those of you who have not heard, A horrible man named Sam Zell bought the Tribune Co…” Facebook comment by Cubs fan…
Under the direction of Sam Zell, according to Avery St. Martins, prominent San Marino resident: “the Los Angeles Times has gone from bad to worst. Zell is everything that’s wrong with America. He’s destroyed the Los Angeles Times. Zell has no class. He’s as common as those now considered the cultural icons in Los Angeles. Norman Chandler was distinguished, while Zell is everything that’s wrong with America. A horrible man. Send him back to wherever he’s from… which must be from nowhere… And the slimy LA Times charges for their horrendous website.”
History of the Los Angeles Times.
(Left: Early edition of the LA Times) The paper was first published every week and one half, as an evening paper, bearing the name, Los Angeles Daily Times on December 4, 1881, but soon went bankrupt. The paper’s printer, the Mirror Company, took over the newspaper and installed former Union Army lieutenant colonel Harrison Gray Otis as an editor. Otis made the paper a financial success. In 1884, he bought out the newspaper and printing company to form the Times-Mirror Company.
Rubble of the Times building after the 1910 bombing Historian Kevin Starr lists Otis (with Henry E. Huntington and Moses Sherman) as a businessman “capable of manipulating the entire apparatus of politics and public opinion for his own enrichment.” Otis’s editorial policy was based on civic boosterism, extolling the virtues of Los Angeles and promoting its growth. Towards those ends, the paper supported efforts to expand the city’s water supply by acquiring the watershed of the Owens Valley, an effort fictionalized in the Roman Polanski movie Chinatown which is also covered in California Water Wars.
The efforts of the Times to fight local unions led to the October 1, 1910, bombing of its headquarters, killing twenty-one people. Two union leaders, James and Joseph McNamara, were charged. The American Federation of Labor hired noted trial attorney Clarence Darrow to represent the brothers, who eventually pleaded guilty. Clarence Darrow was later found innocent of giving a $4,000 bribe to a juryman. The paper soon relocated to the Times Building, a Los Angeles landmark.
(Left: Dorothy Buffum Chandler – major leader in the cultural life of Los Angeles – when she died, class died, according to many old time LA families) Upon Otis’s death in 1917, his son-in-law Harry Chandler took control as publisher of the Times. Harry Chandler was succeeded in 1944 by his son, Norman Chandler, who ran the paper during the rapid growth of post-war Los Angeles.
Norman’s wife, heiress and fellow Stanford alumnus Dorothy Buffum Chandler, became active in civic affairs and led the effort to build the Los Angeles Music Center, whose main concert hall was named the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in her honor. Family members are buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery near Paramount Studios… the site also includes a memorial to the Times building bombing victims.
The paper was a founding co-owner of then-CBS turned independent television station KTTV. It became that station’s sole owner in 1951, and remained so until it was sold to Metromedia in 1963.
The fourth generation of family publishers, Otis Chandler, held that position from 1960 to 1980. Otis Chandler sought legitimacy and recognition for his family’s paper, often forgotten in the power centers of the Northeastern United States due to its geographic and cultural distance. He sought to remake the paper in the model of the nation’s most respected newspapers, notably The New York Times and Washington Post. Believing that the newsroom was “the heartbeat of the business”, Otis Chandler increased the size and pay of the reporting staff and expanded its national and international reporting. In 1962, the paper joined with The Washington Post to form the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service to syndicate articles from both papers for other news organizations.
During the 1960s, the paper won four Pulitzer Prizes, more than its previous nine decades combined.
A Pulitzer Prize in 1990 went to the Times’ Jim Murray, considered by many to be one of the greatest sportswriters of the century.
The paper’s early history and subsequent transformation was chronicled in an unauthorized history Thinking Big (1977, ISBN 0399117660), and was one of four organizations profiled by David Halberstam in The Powers That Be (1979, ISBN 0394503813; 2000 reprint ISBN 0252069412). It has also been the whole or partial subject of nearly thirty dissertations in communications or social science in the past four decades.
In the 1990s, all the major writers were retired early and the demise of the paper came when Sam Zell took over. The Los Angeles Timnes, once a great newspaper, is now run by dreadful leadership from Chicago.
On April 2, 2007, the Tribune Company announced its acceptance of Sam Zell’s offer to buy the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and all other company assets. Zell announced plans to take the company private and sell off the Chicago Cubs baseball club. He put up for sale the company’s 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Up until the time of shareholder approval, Los Angeles billionaires Ron Burkle and Eli Broad had the right to submit a higher bid, in which case Zell would have received a $25 million buyout fee.
The paper reported on July 3, 2008, that it planned to cut 250 jobs by Labor day and reduce the number of published pages by 15%. That included about 17% of its news staff, as part of the newly private media company’s mandate to slash costs. Since Zell bought Tribune, the paper has been struggling to deal with a heavy load of debt. “We’ve tried to get ahead of all the change that’s occurring in the business and get to an organization and size that will be sustainable,” Hiller said.
The changes and cuts have been controversial, prompting criticism from such disparate sources as a Jewish Journal commentary, an anonymously written employee blog called Tell Zell and a satirical Web site, Not the L.A. Times.
In January 2009, the Times increased its single copy price from 50 to 75 cents and the elimination of the separate California/Metro section, folding it into the front section of the newspaper. The Times also announced seventy job cuts in news and editorial, or a 10% cut in payroll. The paper now begs for subscriptions. Advertising revenues have fallen. The great writers are gone.
Today the Los Angeles Times is charging for visiting its pathetic website online. Hello? Are they kidding? Since 1994, when the first decent Web browser, Netscape, became available, the newspaper business model has been doomed. People now expect basic news to be free. They also don’t want to mess around with complicated log-ins and price plans for basic news. And the Los Angeles Times website has to be the worst website in America. Overly complicated, breaking down and retro mess – the LA Times represents someone like Zell along with the incompetent third rate management running this once great newspaper.
There are two problems with the LA Times. The first is that the newspaper industry continues to erode. This is unfortunate. No one under 40 subscribes to newspapers. This includes smart kids in graduate school. They do everything online.
The LA Times’ second problem is the rag’s grating liberalism. There’s seldom a vast new government program or gigantic tax increase that they don’t support. All of their five top columnists are obsessed with tax increases and don’t realize the only people subscribing to this throwaway or mainly conservative.
“Information wants to be free” is a slogan of techno-anarchists. The LA Times is going to find that out — the hard way.