For those of you who watched the PBS presentation on KCET Monday concerning the Chandlers and their Times, you will enjoy this keepsake. For those who did not see the presentation this book will serve as a substitute.
This book traces the life of the paper as it was nurtured by the Chandler family until it was sold to the Tribune Company.
The paper really had its start when a Civil War veteran, Harrison Gray Otis, saw an opportunity. Otis was a very restless person. He was not satisfied. In 1882, he found out that a local newspaper needed an editor. He jumped at that chance. He bought 15 percent of the “Times” to keep it afloat. In those days the area was open land. “There were no paved streets in the city, which during the rainy season, were in horrible condition, horses and vehicles often sinking knee-deep into the foul smelling mixture of black mud and offal.”
Each chapter in this book details the events of importance in the growth of the paper. Chapter one covers the pioneer, Harrison Gray Otis. It was his daughter who married a Chandler, Harry Chandler, a clerk in the circulation department. In 1885, Chandler went to work in the circulation department. Soon he became boss of the circulation department and increased the area of delivery. “The boys who were the carriers are the real leaders of Los Angeles in business and finance and law,” he wrote.
Chapter two gives you the details of the union bombing of the Times building. Chapter three through six details each editor: Harry Chandler, Norman Chandler, Otis Chandler, Tom Johnson. Each gets a chapter.
Little things bring down papers. What it was is spoken of in an epilogue detailing why the Los Angeles Times lost its moorings. Boyarsky concludes, “Ideology was no longer an issue. With Tony Day gone, the conservatives had won and objections to a liberal editorial slant had faded. The editorial pages became bland. Now the main pressure was economic.”
But all was not lost. Otis, the last of the Chandler owners, realized the future lay in the purchase of the paper by the Tribune Company.
“Even before the Staples scandal, the family had been considering selling Times Mirror.” The sale was completed on March 13, 2000.
The Staples scandal concerned mismanagement of funds. By the time that Staples Center was nearing completion they needed backing. Otis was out of the picture by this time. The Newspaper had hired mini-publishers to head up the ad department in conjunction with the rest of the staff. This move irritated most of the old timers. Hoping to share in the advertising profits, the editors decided to sell space on the advertising page and share in the profits generated by such an ad. The plan was not divulged to the editorial staff. Some $1.8 million over five years was promised. “They also agreed to produce an edition of the Times’ Sunday magazine celebrating the opening of the arena.”
Local papers heard about it and disclosed it. This brought into question the integrity of the L.A. Times.
The paper is still with us. So it was a successful purchase.
This table sized book is based on the film by Peter Jones as seen on PBS. The author, Bill Boyarsky, was the political writer and featured columnist at the Times for 30 years. It contains archival pictures and will be a good addition to the collectors’ bookshelf.
Local history needs to be written down and preserved for future generations. This is one of my reasons for doing book reviews. Contact me at email@example.com and let me know how you enjoy it.