The Los Angeles Times, commonly referred to as the Times or LA Times, is a paid daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country. The Times is owned by tronc (formerly known as Tribune Publishing).
The Times was first published on December 4, 1881, as the Los Angeles Daily Times under the direction of Nathan Cole Jr. and Thomas Gardiner. It was first printed at the Mirror printing plant, owned by Jesse Yarnell and T.J. Caystile. Unable to pay the printing bill, Cole and Gardiner turned the paper over to the Mirror Company. In the meantime, S.J. Mathes had joined the firm, and it was at his insistence that the Times continued publication. In July 1882, Harrison Gray Otis moved from Santa Barbara to become the paper's editor. Otis made the Times a financial success.
In an era where newspapers were driven by party politics, the Times was directed at Republican readers. As was typical of newspapers of the time, the Times would sit on stories for several days, notably including the 1884 victory of Democratic presidential candidate Grover Cleveland.
Historian Kevin Starr wrote that Otis was 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. Toward those ends, the paper supported efforts to expand the city's water supply by acquiring the rights to the water supply of the Owens Valley in the California Water Wars, a set of events fictionalized in the Roman Polanski movie Chinatown.
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.
Otis fastened a bronze eagle on top of a high frieze of the new Times headquarters building designed by Gordon Kaufmann, proclaiming anew the credo written by his wife, Eliza: "Stand Fast, Stand Firm, Stand Sure, Stand True."
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, 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.
Writing in 2013 about the pattern of newspaper ownership by founding families, Times reporter Michael Hiltzik said that:
The paper's early history and subsequent transformation was chronicled in an unauthorized history Thinking Big (1977, ISBN 0-399-11766-0), and was one of four organizations profiled by David Halberstam in The Powers That Be (1979, ISBN 0-394-50381-3; 2000 reprint ISBN 0-252-06941-2). 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 was beset in the first decade of the 21st century by a change in ownership, a bankruptcy, a rapid succession of editors, reductions in staff, decreases in paid circulation, the need to increase its Web presence, and a series of controversies.
For two days in 2005, the Times experimented with Wikitorial, the first Wiki by a major news organization to allow readers to combine forces to produce their own editorial pieces. However, it was shut down after a few people besieged it with inappropriate material.
In December 2008, the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy protection.
In 2000, the Times-Mirror Company, publisher of the Times, was purchased by the Tribune Company of Chicago, Illinois, ending one of the final examples of a family-controlled metropolitan daily newspaper in the United States. (The New York Times, The Seattle Times and others remain.)
On April 2, 2007, the Tribune Company announced its acceptance of real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell's offer to buy the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and all other company assets. Zell announced that he would sell the Chicago Cubs baseball club. He put up for sale the company's 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Until shareholder approval was received, 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.
In December 2008, the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy protection. The bankruptcy was a result of declining advertising revenue and a debt load of $12.9 billion, much of it incurred when the paper was taken private by Zell.
John Carroll, former editor of the Baltimore Sun, was brought in to restore the luster of the newspaper. During his reign at the Times he eliminated more than 200 jobs, but despite an operating profit margin of 20 percent, the Tribune executives were unsatisfied with returns, and by 2005 Carroll had left the newspaper. His successor, Dean Baquet, refused to impose the additional cutbacks mandated by the Tribune Company.
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 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other paper but the New York Times. However, Baquet was removed from the editorship for not meeting the demands of the Tribune Group — as was publisher Jeffrey Johnson — and was 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 was overhauled several times in attempts to increase circulation. In 2000, a major change reorganized 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 featured columnists. There were regular cross-promotions with Tribune-owned television station KTLA to bring evening-news viewers into the Times fold.
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 percent. That included about 17 percent of the news staff, as part of the newly private media company's mandate to reduce costs. "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 were 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 eliminated 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 percent cut in payroll.
On October 5, 2015, Poynter Institute reported that "'At least 50' editorial positions will be culled from the Los Angeles Times" through a buyout. On this subject, The Los Angeles Times reported with foresight: "For the 'funemployed,' unemployment is welcome." 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 believed were increasingly relevant to Southern California; she cited the paper's attempted hiring of a "celebrity justice reporter" as an example of the wrong approach.
Some attributed the drop in circulation to the increasing availability of alternate methods of obtaining news, such as the Internet, cable TV and radio. Others believed that the drop was due to the retirement of circulation director Bert Tiffany. Still others thought the decline was a side effect of a succession of short-lived editors who were appointed by publisher Mark Willes after publisher 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 reasons offered for the circulation drop included an increase in the single-copy price from 25 cents to 50 cents and a rise in the proportion of readers preferring to read the online version instead of the print version. 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 had to counter by "growing rapidly on-line," "break[ing] news on the Web and explain[ing] and analyz[ing] it in our newspaper."
In early 2006, the Times closed its San Fernando Valley printing plant, leaving press operations to the Olympic plant and to Orange County. Also in 2006, the Times announced its circulation had fallen to 851,532, down 5.4 percent from 2005. The Times's loss of circulation was the largest of the top ten newspapers in the U.S.
Despite the circulation decline, many in the media industry 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 a circulation audit. This distinction reflected 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 website, www.latimes.com, and a rebuke of print staffers who had assertedly "treated change as a threat."
On July 10, 2007, Times launched a local Metromix site targeting live entertainment for young adults. A free weekly tabloid print edition of Metromix Los Angeles followed in February 2008; the publication was the Times' first stand-alone print weekly. In 2009, the Times shut down Metromix and replaced it with Brand X, a blog site and free weekly tabloid targeting young, social networking readers. Brand X launched in March 2009; the Brand X tabloid ceased publication in June 2011 and the website was shut down the following month.
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 liberal op-ed columnist Robert Scheer and conservative editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, replacing the two with a more diversified lineup of regular columnists.
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 Republican Party'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 American Enterprise Institute, was titled BOMB IRAN. The article shocked some readers, with its hawkish comments 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 on his girlfriend's professional relationship with a Hollywood producer who had been asked to guest edit a section in the newspaper. In an open letter written upon leaving the paper, Martinez criticized 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 relied on 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.
Times sportswriter Jim Murray won a Pulitzer in 1990.
Times journalist David Willman won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting; the organization cited "his pioneering expose of seven unsafe prescription drugs that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and an analysis of the policy reforms that had reduced the agency's effectiveness." 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)).
Times reporters Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2009 "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."
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 and the morning Los Angeles Examiner merged to become the Herald-Examiner.
The Herald-Examiner published its last number in 1989. Today the second-largest daily newspaper in Los Angeles is the San Fernando Valley-based Los Angeles Daily News (unrelated to the aforementioned defunct publication).
For 69 years, from 1885 until 1954, the Times issued on New Year's Day a special annual Midwinter Number or Midwinter Edition that extolled the virtues of Southern California. At first it was called the "Trade Number," and in 1886 it featured a special press run of "extra scope and proportions"; that is, "a twenty-four-page paper, and we hope to make it the finest exponent of this [Southern California] country that ever existed." Two years later, the edition had grown to "forty-eight handsome pages (9x15 inches), [which] stitched for convenience and better preservation," was "equivalent to a 150-page book." The last use of the phrase Trade Number was in 1895, when the edition had grown to thirty-six pages split among three separate sections.
The Midwinter Number drew acclamations from other newspapers, including this one from the Kansas City Star in 1923:
It is made up of five magazines with a total of 240 pages – the maximum size possible under the postal regulations. It goes into every detail of information about Los Angeles and Southern California that the heart could desire. It is virtually a cyclopedia on the subject. It drips official statistics. In addition it verifies the statistics with a profusion of illustration. . . . it is a remarkable combination of guidebook and travel magazine.
In 1948 the Midwinter Edition, as it was then called, had grown to "7 big picture magazines in beautiful rotogravure reproduction." The last mention of the Midwinter Edition was in a Times advertisement on January 10, 1954.
Between 1891 and 1895, the Times also issued a similar Midsummer Number, the first one with the theme "The Land and Its Fruits". Because of its issue date in September, the edition was in 1891 called the Midsummer Harvest Number.
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, publishes the Burbank Leader, Coastline Pilot of Laguna Beach, Crescenta Valley Sun, Daily Pilot of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, Glendale News-Press, Huntington Beach Independent and La Cañada Valley Sun.
Among the Times' staff are columnists Steve Lopez and Patt Morrison, food critic Jonathan Gold, television critic Mary McNamara and film critic Kenneth Turan. Sports columnists include Bill Plaschke, who is also a panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn, and Helene Elliott, the first female sportswriter to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
One of the Times' features 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 embarked on a number of investigative journalism pieces. A series in December 2004 on the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles led to a Pulitzer Prize and a more thorough coverage of the hospital's troubled history. Lopez wrote a five-part series on the civic and humanitarian disgrace of Los Angeles' Skid Row, which became the focus of a 2009 motion picture, The Soloist. It also won 62 awards at the SND awards.
In 1996, the Times started the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, in association with the University of California, Los Angeles. It has panel discussions, exhibits, and stages during two days at the end of April each year. In 2011, the Festival of Books was moved to the University of Southern California.
Since 1980, the Times has awarded annual book prizes. The categories are now 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".
In 1960 Times Mirror of Los Angeles bought the book publisher New American Library known for publishing affordable paperback reprints of classics and other scholarly works. The NAL continued to operate autonomously from New York and within the Mirror Company. And in 1983 Odyssey Partners and Ira J. Hechler bought NAL from the Times Mirror Company for over $50 million.
In 1967 Times Mirror acquired C.V. Mosby Company a professional publisher and merged it over the years with several other professional publishers including Resource Application, Inc., Year Book Medical Publishers, Wolfe Publishing Ltd., PSG Publishing Company, B.C. Decker, Inc., among others. Eventually in 1998 Mosby is then sold to Harcourt Brace & Company to form the Elsevier Health Sciences group.
The Times-Mirror Company was a founding owner of television station KTTV in Los Angeles, which opened in January 1949. It became that station's sole owner in 1951, after re-acquiring the minority shares it had sold to CBS in 1948. Times-Mirror also purchased a former motion picture studio, Nassour Studios, in Hollywood in 1950, which was then used to consolidate KTTV's operations. Later to be known as Metromedia Square, the studio was sold along with KTTV to Metromedia in 1963.
After a seven-year hiatus from the medium, the firm reactivated Times-Mirror Broadcasting Company with its 1970 purchase of the Dallas Times Herald and its radio and television stations, KRLD-AM-FM-TV in Dallas. The Federal Communications Commission granted an exemption of its cross-ownership policy and allowed Times-Mirror to retain the newspaper and the television outlet, which was renamed KDFW-TV.
Times-Mirror Broadcasting later acquired KTBC-TV in Austin, Texas in 1973; and in 1980 purchased a group of stations owned by Newhouse Newspapers: WAPI-TV (now WVTM-TV) in Birmingham, Alabama; KTVI in St. Louis; WSYR-TV (now WSTM-TV) in Syracuse, New York and its satellite station WSYE-TV (now WETM-TV) in Elmira, New York; and WTPA-TV (now WHTM-TV) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The company also entered the field of cable television, servicing the Phoenix and San Diego areas, amongst others. They were originally titled Times-Mirror Cable, and were later renamed to Dimension Cable Television. Similarly, they also attempted to enter the pay-TV market, with the Spotlight movie network; it wasn't successful and was quickly shut down. The cable systems were sold in the mid-1990s to Cox Communications.
Times-Mirror also pared its station group down, selling off the Syracuse, Elmira and Harrisburg properties in 1986. The remaining four outlets were packaged to a new upstart holding company, Argyle Television, in 1993. These stations were acquired by New World Communications shortly thereafter and became key components in a sweeping shift of network-station affiliations which occurred between 1994–1995.
|City of license / market||Station||Channel
TV / (RF)
|Years owned||Current ownership status|
|Birmingham||WVTM-TV||13 (13)||1980–1993||NBC affiliate owned by Hearst Television|
|Los Angeles||KTTV 1||11 (11)||1949–1963||Fox owned-and-operated (O&O)|
|St. Louis||KTVI||2 (43)||1980–1993||Fox affiliate owned by Tribune Broadcasting|
|Elmira, New York||WETM-TV||18 (18)||1980–1986||NBC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group|
|Syracuse, New York||WSTM-TV||3 (24)||1980–1986||NBC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Harrisburg - Lancaster -
Lebanon - York
|WHTM-TV||27 (10)||1980–1986||ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group|
|Austin, Texas||KTBC-TV||7 (7)||1973–1993||Fox owned-and-operated (O&O)|
|Dallas - Fort Worth||KDFW-TV 2||4 (35)||1970–1993||Fox owned-and-operated (O&O)|
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