Front page from October 21, 2008
|Founded||December 4, 1881|
|Headquarters||202 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. In 2008 it was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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. 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 or the rise in readers preferring to read the online version instead of the hard copy. 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." 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner Nancy Cleeland  who took O'Shea's buyout offer, did so because of "frustration with the paper's coverage of working people and organized labor" (the beat that earned her Pulitzer). 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.
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. 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' loss of circulation is the highest out of the top ten newspapers in the U.S. 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. The report, which condemned the Times as a "web-stupid" organization," was followed by a shakeup in management of the paper's Web site, latimes.com, and a rebuke of print staff who have "treated change as a threat."
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 Times's most recent Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 2009. Reporters Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart won the Explanatory Reporting prize "for their fresh and painstaking exploration into the cost and effectiveness of attempts to combat the growing menace of wildfires across the western United States." Previously it had won thirty-eight Pulitzers, including 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)).
In the 19th century, the chief competition to the Times was the Los Angeles Herald, followed by the smaller Los Angeles Tribune. In December 1903, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst began publishing the Los Angeles Examiner as a direct morning competitor to the Times. In the 20th Century, the Los Angeles Express was an afternoon competitor, as was Manchester Boddy's Los Angeles Daily News, a Democratic newspaper. 
By the mid-1940s, the Times was the leading newspaper in terms of circulation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In 1948, it launched the Los Angeles Mirror, an afternoon tabloid, to compete with both the Daily News and the merged Herald-Express. In 1954, the Mirror absorbed the Daily News. The combined paper, the Mirror-News, ceased publication in 1962, when the Hearst afternoon Herald-Express was merged with the morning Los Angeles Examiner.
In 1989, the Times's last rival for the Los Angeles daily newspaper market, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, went out of business, making Los Angeles virtually a one-newspaper city, except for smaller dailies in cities like Pasadena, the San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica, Long Beach, and Torrance and the South Bay.
In the 1990s, the Times published 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.
Some of these editions were folded into Our Times, a group of community supplements included in editions of the regular Los Angeles Metro newspaper.
A subsidiary, Times Community Newspapers. owns the News-Press in Glendale, the Leader in Burbank, the Sun in La Crescenta, the Daily Pilot in Newport Beach, and the Independent in Huntington Beach.
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 columnists include Bill Plaschke, who is also a panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, T.J. Simers, Kurt Streeter and Helene Elliott, the first female sportswriter to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Former sports editor Bill Dwyre is also now a columnist.
One of the Times' best-known news 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, which became the focus of the 2009 motion picture, The Soloist.
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.
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.
Following the GOP's defeat in the 2006 mid-term elections, an Opinion piece published on November 19, 2006, by Joshua Muravchik, a leading neoconservative and a resident scholar at the conservative view American Enterprise Institute, titled BOMB IRAN shocked some readers, with its hawkish overtures in support of more unilateral action by the United States, this time against Iran.
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. In an open letter penned upon leaving the paper, Martinez 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.
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. Columnist Jill Stewart wrote on the American Reporter website that the Times did not do a story on allegations that former Governor Gray Davis had verbally and physically abused women in his office and that the Schwarzenegger story was printed with a number of anonymous sources. Further, she said, four of the six alleged victims were not named. She also said that in the case of the Davis allegations, the Times decided against printing the Davis story because of its reliance on anonymous sources. The American Society of Newspaper Editors said that the Times lost more than 10,000 subscribers because of the negative publicity surrounding the Schwarzenegger article.
Since 1980, the Times has awarded annual book prizes, most recently in nine single-title categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction, history, mystery/thriller, poetry, science and technology, and young adult fiction. 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".
The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in association with the University of California, Los Angeles was started by the Times in 1996. It has panel discussions, exhibits, and stages during two days at the end of April each year.
The Times also sponsors the The Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival, which is held in the end of June in Westwood Village. The 2009 festival, featuring more than 200 films from 30 countries, is scheduled for June 18–28.