The Los Angeles Time has been run for four generations by the Chandler family,
Harrison Gray Otis (February 10, 1837 – July 30, 1917) was the president and general manager of the Times-Mirror Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. He saw the world in black and white.
Loyal in his friendships, bitter toward his enemies. He was a Lieutenant colonel during the civil war. When his friend Rutherford B Hayes became president he was expecting a lucrative job. Unfortunately for Otis, he was shipped off to Alaska in a low-level job, while his friends grew in wealth and stature.
Upon his return from Alaska, he was given the job as publisher and editor of Los Angeles Daily Times. When he arrived Los Angeles was an agricultural town of about 12,000 people. The newspaper was staunchly Republican. He believed that Americans next big centre of growth was to be California.
Otis was fiercely anti-union, he encouraged the entrepreneur to move out west and establish their businesses there. The recently completed railroads which connected California to the rest of America a one-way ticket from Kansas City cost $1. Fuelled by a Real Estate boom the population of Los Angeles grew to 50,000 people in less than a decade. Otis foundered what became the most powerful chamber of commerce in the country. In 1886 Otis bought out his partners and became the sole owner of the Times Mirror Company.He made his newspaper the town’s primary instrument of development.
Colonel Otis attacked the labour unions. He backed this with action, if you were a business sympathetic to unions, than you wouldn’t be able to get a bank loan and you would find yourself denounced in the pages of the New York Times.
Otis declared war on the Southern Pacific Railroad, he wrote that the business was strong arming the Federal Government over the Habour where the railroad ended an LA Santa Monica Bay, Property the S&P owned outright. Otis knew that control of the Habour meant control of the city’s future.
The US government approved 3 million dollars for a man made Habour in San Petro. It took seven years to build but Otis had beaten Southern Pacific Railroad monopoly. The port of Los Angeles was open to everyone, free trade had won out. Otis’ daily rants in the Times had helped vanquish the most powerful corporation in the west.
Otis wanted to ensure the future of his paper. He had no sons and four daughters, of them only Marion worked at the Times. Marion married an employee name Harry Chandler, making him the heir apparent.
The Chandlers had lived in the same New Hampshire town for centuries. Chandler thought big while working at the Times he secretly bought up all the routes of the Times and the competing newspaper. He then sent the Herald delivery boys away on holiday, leaving the Times to capitalise on subscriptions. Only Otis knew of his scheme. At 29, Chandler became The Times general manager. Harry’s purpose for the paper was to promote economic expansion.
Business interests often Real Estate had made him and Otis among the richest men in the city. This was a collaboration of tyrannical will and one of the shrewdest Businessmen LA had ever seen.
Chandler turned the paper into one that had the highest classified ads revenues in the United States as well as an engine for promoting the city.
For Chandler public policy and private interest were one in the same, especially with a natural resource essential to the cities growth. LA would find water meant to go somewhere else and take by subterfuge.
In 1903 the US government had a plan to catch water from the Sierra Mountains that would irrigate Central California’s dry Owens Valley, but the LA city council sent city official posing as cattle ranches to buy up water rights from local farmers. They sold their land but later regretted it saying they were swindled by the City of LA. A 200-mile Aqueduct was built to re-route the water to southern California. It took six years to build. The Owens Valley was denied water for its own future development.
Well before plans of the water project were made public Otis and Chandler formed a syndicate to buy up 440,000 acres of dry land in the San Fernando Valley adjacent to LA. This was evidence of Chandler ruthlessness in the future, he did what had to be done to bring water to Southern California. Chandler regularly wrote in the paper about the cities need for water. When they announced the plan the paper issued a 23.000, 000 dollar bond issue, to pay for the aqueduct.
In 1907 voters passed it by a margin of 10 to one. It’s doubtful that the aqueduct would have passed without the bond issue. Chandler and Otis had inside information. The Aqueduct ended in the San Fernando. Valley, were Chandler and Otis had bought up all the land. They tried to keep it a secret but other capitalists saw it was a good investment and came on board. To the amazement of the Californian residence who had paid for it, the Aqueduct ended in the San Fernando Valley not LA. Only later was the Valley incorporated into the city, overnight Los Angeles doubled in size.
There’s one city were a labour strike has never been successful, Los Angeles, because of ‘The Times’. Otis and Chandler were scathing on any labour organisations and this at a time when America was in a union stronghold. Otis at age 61, lead a platoon to fight in the Spanish-American war, after killing 1000 Philippines he was promoted to Brigadier General.
He called is workers at ‘The Times’ his army to use against union organisers. Otis’ attacks on labour lead to death threats and people wanting ‘The Times’ destroyed.
In 1910 an explosion in an ink supply storage unit at the times killed 20 workers and injured 17 more. ‘The Times’ blamed unionists. Labour accused Otis and Chandler of destroying their own building in an attempt to undermine them.
Two union activists, the James and John McNamara brothers were held for trial they hired Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer, leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union to represent them. ‘The Times’ called it the ‘Crime of the Century’ much of the public sympathised with the McNamara Brothers. As evidence mounted Darrow accepted a plea deal, in exchange the Manama’s would not be executed. In the light of WWI Otis promoted the League of Nations agenda in his paper although would not live to see it come to a reality.
As the city’s largest landowner Harry Chandler was interested in developing the cities Real Estate as well as commercial properties. Chandler and his partners were instrumental in luring Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Goodyear to what was already the nation’s largest auto market. Chandler also ordered several syndicates to drill for oil. Chandler wanted in on the Aircraft building industry and leased land to engineer Donald Douglas, one year later the government ordered 25 planes. Douglas Aircraft launched LA’s sixty year domination of the Aerospace industry.
A decade before movies arrived in LA, Chandler lead the Real Estate syndicate that first developed a onetime farmland called Hollywood. Years later he built a sigh ‘Hollywoodland’ intended to be a temporary promotion, for his newly christened subdivision. It also became a beacon for the fastest internal migration in history.
During the 1920’s one and half million Americans moved to Southern California for a promise of a new life. Chandler kept his mate's names out of the paper, which included a corrupt police chief who presided over one of the most corrupt police forces in the land. Chandler chose Majors and Governors in LA via running smear campaigns against his man’s opposition.
Before his death Harry Chandler created two trusts; one protected his family’s vast holdings from inheritance taxes and estimated $2 million in Real Estate alone and the second made sure that his heir would always be majority shareholders in the company his primary goal was to ensure that the family business stayed in the family and was never sold. Harry Chandler died in September 1944 at age 80. By his orders all his business and personal files were burned, exactly how he built, the City, the newspaper, and his fortune was lost to history.
Harry Chandler’s son Norman picked up where his father left off. Norman’s wife Dorothy wasn’t accepted by the Chandler family and this was the first sign of fracturing in the family. Due to Harry’s outside interests, the Times was not in good shape when Norman took it over. Culling expenses everywhere Norman managed to pull the Times out of its debt spiral.
In keeping with family tradition, the Times remained pro-business, anti-union and Republican. The times launched the career of Richard Nixon attacking all his opponents as communists. Nine times out of ten the people ‘The Time’ picked for office became the governors, the congressman, the senators and the mayors.
The Times was more prestigious than its competitors and that’s why the advertisers put more money into it than its competitors. During the post-war baby boom society, the population of Los Angeles County exploded from 3 to 6.5 million people.
Norman and Dorothy’s son Otis was next in line to run the family business, His father gave him a seven-year executive training program at ‘The Times’. His favourite part of the program was the year he spent as a reporter. Journalistically it was considered one of the worst big Newspapers in the country.
In 1961 Norman Chandler became CEO of ‘Times – Mirror Company’ and named his 32-year-old son the 4th Publisher of ‘The Times’. The appointment alienated most of Norman’s family who considered Otis, to young, too liberal and too much his mother’s son.
The Chandler’s were not on the same side politically. In the beginning many underestimated Otis Chandler, Otis warned his editors about publishing stories about labour disputes and racial issues. After one year Otis had replaced 18 of 21 department heads. After three he had tripled the news budget, hired a national editor and opened bureaus around the world. The new ‘Times’ world reported the news and investigates it.
In 1961 the times ran a five piece smear campaign against the John Birch Society. John Birch Society members included Norman Chandler’s brother Phillip and wife Alberta. The family divide widened. The John Birch Society article angered enough supporters that ‘The Time’ lost 15,000 subscriptions.
Otis did, however, stop giving political preferences to the Republicans and gave both parties equal news time. Norman Chandler took the brunt of the blame for the changes the changes to editorial policy. Richard Nixon blamed the times for his loss in the run for governor 1962.
The family as shareholders were also unhappy with the policy changes.
In 1964, through the ‘Times – Mirror company’ they became the first family owned newspaper to sell stock on the New York Stock Exchange. Armed with capital Norman Chandler began to buy other businesses, other newspaper, cable TV stations, forest products and paper manufacturing. The publishing of books, magazines, bibles, maps and phone directories.
Time Mirror became the largest publishing empire in the country. But his family still wasn’t impressed. They criticised Norman for taking the family business public. After several LA race riots, Otis Chandler adopted an affirmative action hiring plan. The all-white newspaper was no longer all white.
Otis’s son Norman Jnr was given an apprenticeship at the paper. However, in 1980, Tom Johnson was named the 5th Publisher of the paper. Twelve years into his career at the paper Norman Chandler developed a Brain tumour that would eventually take his life.
Otis did not build a power base, within the family and board. In a 1985 meeting of the board, Otis Chandler was told to leave.
In 1989 Tom Johnson had made the paper one of the most successful in the country, with sales soaring. However, the family saw fit to fire Johnson that year. The paper lost credibility as in one decade it had five publishers as the family strived for higher profits over journalist integrity.
In 1993 Otis’ son Harry took a job at ‘The Times’ exploring the role computers could play in journalism. In a Vanity Fair article in the 90’s a now isolated Otis took aim at the rest of the family calling them faceless nobodies.
The Chandlers sold the Times to the Chicago Tribune ending over 100 years of family ownership and was therefore LA would become the largest in America without a locally owned newspaper
Harrison Gray Otis