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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Los Angeles Times

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Front page from October 23, 2006

Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet

Owner Tribune Company
Publisher David Hiller
Editor Russ Stanton
Founded December 4, 1881
Headquarters 202 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Flag of the United States United States
Circulation 773,884 Daily
1,101,981 Sunday[1]

Website: www.latimes.com

The Los Angeles Times (also known as the LA Times) is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California and distributed throughout the Western United States. It is the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in the United States and the third-most widely distributed newspaper in the United States.[2] In addition to its print product, the Times also publishes a 24-hour news Web site at latimes.com.

Founded in 1881, the Times has won 37 Pulitzer Prizes through 2004; this includes four in editorial cartooning, and one each in spot news reporting for the 1965 Watts Riots and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. In 2004, the paper won five prizes, which is the third-most by any paper in one year (behind The New York Times in 2002 (7) and The Washington Post in 2008 (6)).

Contents

History

See also: List of Los Angeles Times publishers

The paper was first published as the 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.

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.”[3] 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 (highly) 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 21 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, although supporters then (and since) believed the two men were framed.[citation needed] The paper soon relocated to the Times Building, a Los Angeles landmark.

Chandler era

On Otis’s death in 1917, his son-in-law Harry Chandler took over the reins 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 alum 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 sold it to Metromedia in 1963. Now that station is owned by Fox through Newscorp.

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”[4], 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.[5]

Modern era

LA Times building, May 2006, featuring green

LA Times building, May 2006, featuring green “125 Years” banners, at 1st and Spring, downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times paid circulation figures have decreased since the mid-1990s. It has recently been unable to pass the one million mark, a milestone easily surpassed in earlier decades. Some believe the circulation drop was a result of a liberal bias attributed to the paper, which alienated many readers; others attribute the drop to the increasing availability of alternate methods of obtaining news, such as the Internet, cable TV or radio. Others also believe that the drop was due to the circulation director (Bert Tiffany) retiring. Still others believe the circulation drop was a side effect of a succession of short-lived editors who were appointed by publisher Mark Willes after Otis Chandler relinquished day-to-day control in 1995.[4] Willes, the former president of General Mills, was criticized for his lack of understanding of the newspaper business, and was derisively referred to by reporters and editors as The Cereal Killer.

Other possible reasons for the circulation drop include an increase in the single copy price from 25 cents to 50 cents[6] or the rise in readers preferring to read the online version instead of the hard copy.[7] Editor Jim O’Shea, in an internal memo announcing a May 2007, mostly voluntary reduction in force, characterized the decrease in circulation as an “industry-wide problem” which the paper must counter by “growing rapidly on-line,” “break[ing] news on the web and explain[ing] and analyz[ing] it in our newspaper.”[8] 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner Nancy Cleeland[9], who took O’Shea’s buyout offer, did so because of “frustration with the paper’s coverage of working people and organized labor”[10] (the beat that earned her her Pulitzer[9]). She speculated that the paper’s revenue shortfall could be reversed by expanding coverage of economic justice topics which she believes are increasingly relevant to Southern California; she cited the paper’s attempted hiring of a “celebrity justice reporter” as an example of the wrong approach.[10]

In 2000, the Times-Mirror Company was purchased by the Tribune Company of Chicago, Illinois, ending one of the final examples of a family-controlled metropolitan daily newspaper in the U.S. (The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and others remain). John Carroll, former editor of the Baltimore Sun, was brought in to restore the luster of the newspaper. During his reign at the Los Angeles Times he eliminated more than 200 jobs, but it was not enough for parent company Tribune. Despite operating profits of 20 percent the Tribune executives were unsatisfied with returns and by 2005 John Carroll had left the Los Angeles Times.

Dean Baquet replaced John Carroll, who refused to impose the additional cutbacks mandated by Tribune. Baquet was the first African American to hold this type of editorial position at a top-tier daily. During Baquet and Carroll’s time at the paper it won 13 Pulitzers, more than any other paper but the New York Times.[11] Subsequently, Baquet was himself ousted for not meeting the demands of the Tribune Group- as was publisher Jeffrey Johnson – and replaced by James O’Shea of the Chicago Tribune. O’Shea himself left in January, 2008 after a budget dispute with publisher David Hiller.

The paper’s content and design style has been overhauled several times in recent years in attempts to help increase circulation. In 2000, a major change more closely organized the news sections (related news was put closer together) and changed the “Local” section to the “California” section with more extensive coverage. Another major change in 2005 saw the Sunday “Opinion” section retitled the Sunday “Current” section, with a radical change in its presentation and columnists featured. There are regular cross-promotions with co-owned KTLA to bring evening news viewers into the Times fold.

In early 2006, The Times closed its San Fernando Valley printing plant, leaving press operations at the Olympic Plant and Orange County. Also in 2006, the Times announced its circulation at 851,532, down 5.4% from 2005. The Times’s loss of circulation is the highest out of the top ten newspapers in the U.S.[12] Despite this recent circulation decline, many in the media industry have lauded the newspaper’s effort to decrease its reliance on ‘other-paid’ circulation in favor of building its ‘individually-paid’ circulation base – which showed a marginal increase in the most recent circulation audit. This distinction reflects the difference between, for example, copies distributed to hotel guests free of charge (other-paid) versus subscriptions and single-copy sales (individually-paid).

In December 2006, a team of Times reporters delivered management with a critique of the paper’s online news efforts known as the Spring Street Project.[13] The report, which condemned the Times as a “web-stupid” organization,”[13] was followed by a shakeup in management of the paper’s Web site,[14] latimes.com, and a rebuke of print staff who have “treated change as a threat.”[15]

Under Sam Zell’s ownership

On April 2, 2007, the Tribune Company announced their acceptance of Sam Zell’s offer to buy the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other media assets. Zell reportedly plans to take the company private and sell off the Chicago Cubs after the 2007 season. He will also sell 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 may submit a higher bid in which case Zell would receive a $25 million buyout fee. [16]

According to the Jewish daily The Forward, the pending purchase of the Times had stirred debate as to what influence would Samuel Zell, who has a reputation for being a “committed Zionist”, effect on the paper’s coverage of Israel.[17] One former Los Angeles Times political reporter, Ken Reich, assumes the paper’s policies will be shaped to “some degree.” Reich elaborates:

“If he cares about the State of Israel, he won’t want his newspaper to be out there chipping away at Israeli interests. […] It would not take very much tweaking by him to sharply alter the Times editorial policy on the Middle East. I tend to expect this to happen.”[17]

Competition and rivalry

The Los Angeles Times building as seen from Grand Ave.

The Los Angeles Times building as seen from Grand Ave.

By the mid-1940s, the Los Angeles Times was the leading newspaper in terms of sales in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. After World War II, it launched The Mirror an afternoon tabloid to compete with Hearst’s Herald-Express. The Mirror absorbed The Los Angeles Daily News in 1954 and ceased publication in 1962, when The Herald-Express was merged with the morning Los Angeles Examiner.

In 1989, its last rival for the Los Angeles daily newspaper market, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, went out of business, making Los Angeles nominally a one-newspaper city. However, in the suburban neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley, The Times still competed with The Valley News and Greensheet, which later renamed itself The Daily News of Los Angeles to compete with the Times. The L.A. Times has an Orange County edition (with its own printing presses and editorial staff) that competes with the Santa Ana based The Orange County Register. La Opinión, a Spanish language daily newspaper previously owned by The Times for several years in the 1990s, also sells many papers.

Outside of the city of Los Angeles proper, The Times also competes against several smaller daily papers in nearby Southern California cities. Examples include The Long Beach Press-Telegram, The Daily Breeze (South Bay), The Ventura County Star, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and The Pasadena Star-News.

In the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times attempted to publish various editions catering to far flung areas. Editions included a Ventura County edition, an Inland Empire edition, a San Diego County edition, and a “National Edition” that was distributed to Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area. The National Edition was closed in December 2004. Of these, only the Inland Empire and Ventura County editions remains, although nearby cities such as Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Barstow and Needles still sell the Times in selected newsstands.

Some of these editions were folded in to Our Times, a group of community newspapers included in home delivery and newsstand editions of the regular Los Angeles Metro newspaper. Our Times was also founded in Santa Monica, due to the closure of the long time Outlook newspaper.

Today, remnants of Our Times are the Times Community Newspapers that are inserted on a regular basis in some areas of the Los Angeles Times. Times Community Newspapers are primarily independent local newspapers that were purchased by the Los Angeles Times during its expansion phase, but have a large enough readership and advertiser base to be continued. These include the News-Press in Glendale, the Leader in Burbank (and surrounding areas), the Sun in La Crescenta and surrounding regions, the Daily Pilot in Newport Beach and surrounding cities, and the Independent in Huntington Beach.

Features

Among its current staff are columnists Steve Lopez and Patt Morrison, popular music critics Robert Hillburn and Randy Lewis, film critic Kenneth Turan, entertainment industry columnist Patrick Goldstein and numerous award-winning reporters.

Sports columnist Bill Plaschke is also a panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn. T.J. Simers writes a sports column and until recently co-hosted a local radio show with his daughter. The Times also has Helene Elliott, the first female sportswriter to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and former sports editor Bill Dwyre is now one of the staff’s columnists.

One of the Times’ best-known columns is “Column One,” a feature that appears daily on the front page to the left-hand side. Established in September 1968, it is a place for the weird and the interesting; in the How Far Can a Piano Fly? (a compilation of Column One stories) introduction, Patt Morrison writes that the column’s purpose is to elicit a “Gee, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that” type of reaction.

The Times also embarks on a number of investigative journalism pieces, researching and dissecting a certain scandal or unfavored part of society. A series in December 2004 on the King-Drew Medical Center led to a Pulitzer Prize and a more thorough coverage of the hospital’s troubled history. Most recently, Lopez wrote an acclaimed five-part series on the civic and humanitarian disgrace of Los Angeles’ Skid Row..

Controversies

The credibility of the Times suffered greatly when it was revealed in 1999 that a revenue-sharing arrangement was in place between the Times and Staples Center in the preparation of a 168-page magazine about the opening of the sports arena. The magazine’s editors and writers were not informed of the agreement, which breached the “Chinese wall” that traditionally has separated advertising from journalistic functions at American newspapers. Publisher Mark Willes also had not prevented advertisers from pressuring reporters in other sections of the newspaper to write stories favorable to their point of view.[18]

Michael Kinsley was hired as the Opinion and Editorial (Op-Ed) Editor in April 2004 to help improve the quality of the opinion pieces. His role was controversial, as he forced writers to take a more decisive stance on issues. In 2005, he created a Wikitorial, the first Wiki by a major news organization. Although it failed, readers could combine forces to produce their own editorial pieces. He resigned later that year.

On November 12, 2005, new Op-Ed Editor Andrés Martinez shook things up by announcing the firing of leftist op-ed columnist Robert Scheer and conservative editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, replacing the two with a more diversified lineup of regular columnists. The change was not well-received by liberal readers, many of whom accused the newspaper of trying to silence liberal voices and remove controversial writers.

The Times has also come under controversy for its decision to drop the weekday edition of the Garfield comic strip in 2005, in favor of a hipper comic strip Brevity, while retaining the Sunday edition. Garfield was dropped altogether shortly thereafter.[19]

Following the GOP’s defeat in the 06 mid-term Elections, an Opinion piece published on November 19, 2006 by Joshua Muravchik, a leading neoconservative and a resident scholar at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, titled BOMB IRAN shocked readers, including over a million Iranian Americans of California, with its hawkish overtures in support of more unilateral action by the United States, this time against Iran.[20]

On March 22, 2007, editorial page editor Andrés Martinez resigned following an alleged scandal centering around his girlfriend’s professional relationship with a Hollywood producer who had been tapped to guest edit a section in the newspaper.[21] In an open letter penned upon leaving the paper, Grazer blasted the publication for allowing the Chinese Wall between the news and editorial departments to be weakened, accusing news staffers of lobbying the opinion desk.[22]

Also in March 2007 the Times faced rumors that publisher David Hiller suggested and approved former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, with whom Hiller has close personal and business contacts, for a guest editorial position at the newspaper.[23] Rumsfeld was an influential Iraq war hawk in the George W. Bush administration. Rumsfeld also has strong ties to the Times’ parent company, the Tribune Company, where he was a member of the board of directors.[23]

“Gropegate”

See also: Arnold Schwarzenegger#Allegations of sexual and personal misconduct

The Times drew fire for a last-minute story before the 2003 California recall election alleging that gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger groped scores of women during his movie career. While the story itself was not discredited, the newspaper’s motives and timing were brought into question. The newspaper ran the story days before the recall even though it had prepared the story weeks beforehand.

Columnist Jill Stewart pointed out that the Times did not do a story on allegations that former Governor Gray Davis had verbally and physically abused women in his office. The Schwarzenegger story was run with a number of anonymous sources (four of the six alleged victims were not named); however, in the case of the Davis allegations, the Times decided against running the Davis story because of its reliance on anonymous sources.[24][25][26]

Times editor John Carroll stated that the Times lost over 10,000 subscribers due to the negative publicity surrounding this article.[27]

Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

Further information: List of Los Angeles Times Book Prize winners

Since 1980, the Los Angeles Times has awarded a set of annual book prizes. The Prizes “currently have nine single-title categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award added in 1991), history, mystery/thriller (category added in 2000), poetry, science and technology (category added in 1989), and young adult fiction (category added in 1998). In addition, the Robert Kirsch Award is presented annually to a living author with a substantial connection to the American West whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition” [28].

The Book Prize program was founded by Art Seidenbaum, a Los Angeles Times book editor from 1978 to 1985; an award named after him was added a year after his death in 1990. The Robert Kirsch Award is named after the longtime Times book critic who died in 1980. Works are eligible during the year of their first US publication in English, though English does not have to be the original language of the work. The author of each winning book and the Kirsch Award recipient receives a citation and $1,000.

General references

  • Edward Maddin Ainsworth, History of Los Angeles Times, ca. 1940.
  • Robert Gottlieb, Thinking Big, New York: Putnam, 1977.
  • David Halberstam, The Powers That Be, New York: Knopf, 1979.
  • Jack R. Hart, The information empire: The rise of the Los Angeles Times and the Times Mirror Corporation, Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981.

Specific references

  1. ^ Saba, Jennifer (2008-04-28). New FAS-FAX: Steep Decline at ‘NYT’ While ‘WSJ’ Gains. Editor & Publisher. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
  2. ^ According to the 2007 World Almanac
  3. ^ Inventing the Dream: California Through the Progressive Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985): 228.
  4. ^ a b Dennis McDougal, Privileged son: Otis Chandler and the rise and fall of the L.A. Times dynasty, Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo, 2002
  5. ^ ProQuest Dissertation Abstracts, accessed June 8, 2007.
  6. ^ Shah, Diane, “The New Los Angeles Times” Columbia Journalism Review 2002, 3.
  7. ^ Rainey, James, “Newspaper Circulation Continues to Fall,” Los Angeles Times 1 May 2007: D1.
  8. ^ Editor & Publisher. “California Split: 57 More Job Cuts at L.A. Times“. Retrieved on 2007-05-28.
  9. ^ a b Editor & Publisher. “Pulitzer Winner Explains Why She Took L.A. Times Buyout“. Retrieved on 2007-05-28.
  10. ^ a b Why I’m Leaving The L.A. Times from The Huffington Post
  11. ^ Mother Jones. “Breaking the News”.
  12. ^ Newspaper sales dip, but websites gain – USATODAY.com
  13. ^ a b Mayrav. “LAT’s Scathing Internal Memo. Read It Here.”, fishbowlLA, 26 January 2007.
  14. ^ Roderick, Kevin. “Times retools on web — again”, LA Observed, 24 January 2007.
  15. ^ Welch, Matt. “Spring Street Project unveiled!”, latimes.com, 24 January 2007.
  16. ^ Tribune goes to Zell, from the April 3, 2007 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times
  17. ^ a b Nathaniel Popper, Billionaire Boychiks Battle for Media Empire: ‘Committed Zionist’ To Buy Papers With Troubled Ties to Community, The Forward, April 13 2007
  18. ^ Salon. “Meltdown at the L.A. Times”, 1999-11-05. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  19. ^ Editor & Publisher. “Garfield no more?”. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  20. ^ Los Angeles Times. “Bomb Iran”, 2006-11-19. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  21. ^ Los Angeles Times. “Editor Resigns over Killed Opinion Section”, 2007-03-22. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  22. ^ Los Angeles Times. “Grazergate, an Epilogue”, 2007-03-22. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  23. ^ a b Deadline Hollywood Daily. “LA Times Publisher’s Friend and Tribune Co Ex-Director Don Rumsfeld was asked to Guest-Edit after Grazer”, 2007-03-25. Retrieved on 2007-03-26.
  24. ^ “Jill Stewart, “LA Times Covers Up Davis Violence on Female Staff,” jillstewart.net”.
  25. ^ “”How the Los Angeles Times Really Decided to Publish its Accounts of Women Who Said They Were Groped,” jillstewart.net”.
  26. ^A copy of the Oct. 2, 2003 article, “Women Say Schwarzenegger Groped, Humiliated Them” (Original article not found on the Times Web site)“.
  27. ^ “ASNE recognizes Los Angeles Times editor for leadership”.
  28. ^ http://www.latimes.com/extras/bookprizes/index.html Los Angeles Times Book Prizes home page
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