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The Power of Owning the Press
Transcript of The Power of Owning the Press
Major General Harrison Gray Otis
Major General Gray Otis
LA Population in the 1880's
Came to California from New Hampshire. Dropped out of Dartmouth at 17 after contacting pneumonia when he jumped into an ice covered starch vat on a dare; doctors told him to move to CA to recuperate in the sunshine
Started selling oranges in the San Fernando Valley, earned $19/day
Eventually bought up circulation list for the Times, morning Tribune and afternoon Herald1885: circulation dept. clerk, promoted to circulation manager1894: marries Otis’ daughter Marian
Went on to become V.P. and G.M. of Times before taking over as publisher
Born Feb. 10, 1837 on a farm near Marietta, Ohio
Youngest of 16 siblings, worked on the farm, little schooling
At 14 Harrison becomes a printer’s apprentice for the Noble County Courier in Ohio
By 23 was a member of the 1960 Republican National Convention that nominated Abe Lincoln
When the Civil War broke out, Otis enlisted at a private in the Union army.
Fought in 15 battles, wounded twice cited for gallantry
Discharged as a Lieutenant Colonel, eventually had people refer to him as “General” after Philippines
1876: Otis comes to Santa Barbara and works as editor of the Santa Barbara Press
1882: Otis scrapes together $6,000 & buys a quarter interest in the Los Angeles Daily Times (1st four page issue had run Dec. 4, 1881)
Became editor of the Times and editor of weekly sister publication the MirrorWrote many of the editorials and article for the paper for a salary of $15/week
Wife Eliza, who he married in 1859, contributed columns about women, religion and morals1883: Otis and H.H. Boyce become co-owners of the Times, which has now grown to 8 pages, and create the Times Mirror Company
Otis wanted to change the paper: dropped “daily”, ordered livelier headlines, added political points, columns and letters to the editor
The History of the LA Times
1882: LA is small dusty town; pop. 5,0001883: Southern Pacific Railroad comes to California with the “Sunset Route” New Orleans to California with a spur in LA1884: pop. increases to 12,0001886: pop. increases to 100,000; the Southern Pacific, Topeka and Santa Fe Rail Roads compete in a fare war
Power of the Times
1897: formation of the Los Angeles Merchants and Manufacturers Association to keep organized labor out of LA
1890’s: struggle over federal funds to build a breakwater in San Pedro
Southern Pacific R.R. wanted a new harbor in Santa Monica because they had waterfront interests
Times vigorously supported San Pedro, it backing was instrumental to S.P. Harbor being built, making LA a major west coast port, now the busiest in the U.S.
LA and the Aqueduct
1902: Land Reclamation Act passed. Leads to the damming of nearly every major western river. Bureau of Land Management formed by executive branch
J.B. Lippincott named Bureau’s supervising engineer for California, friends with Chandler1903:
Lippincott and J.C. Clausen begin surveying Owen Valley water
Fred Eaton & William Mulholland begin looking at the Owens Valley
Clausen believed they would use the spill from the Owens River to irrigate the surrounding land
Local farmers began relinquishing their water rights
Lippincott approaches Chandler with idea of aqueduct for LA
Otis, Chandler, Van Nuys, Mulholland, Sherman, Huntington, Lankershim, Whitely.
San Fernando Mission Land Co. formed and started buying very cheap land in the S.F. Valley
Made a deal that no one would break the story first
July 28, 1905: Times breaks the story that LA will be getting water; land Chandler has bought for about $3 million is now valued at over $120 million
The aqueduct ran over 225 miles and was built under the supervision of Mulholland, first water delivered in 1913
1917: July 30, Otis dies at age 80
1944: Harry dies with an estimated worth of $500 million
July 3, 1907 Otis accused of taking bribes from Patrick Calhoun a railroad magnate.
LA Times Bombed
1910: Oct.1 LA Times building is bombed leaving 20 killed and 21 injured
Brothers J.J. & J.B. McNamara are arrested for the bombing, defended by lawyer Clarence Darrow
Brothers are part of the Iron Workers Unions, one of the few strong unions in LA
The bomb went off at 1:07 a.m. in the alley outside the Times. It was meant to go off at 4 a.m. when the building would have been empty. Damage was more than brothers thought due to natural gas main lines under the building
Bomb collapsed the side of the building, the ensuing fire destroyed the building a the one next to the Times which housed its printing press
Eldest of 8 children
Married to Dorothy Buffum
Took over as publisher in 1941
Cut employees by 10% created 1st personnel dept. in any newspaper
Hire the best people at wages equal to or higher than current union wages; mandate stayed for 50 years
Provided medical insurance, pension plan & specialty emergency employee fund
1964: takes the Times/Mirror Co. public
1973: announced Times Mirror Co. was the largest publicly held publisher in the country
1973: dies of throat cancer, his ashes are released in Dana Point Harbor
Dorothy Buffman Chandler
Had 2 children: Camilla (1925) & Otis (1927)
Harry Chandler adored her, nicknamed her “Buff”
Norman’s brothers and sister thought she wasn’t good enough
Wanted to change the Times to a modern national paper
Created Los Angeles’ Music Center
Raised $19 million to preserve the Hollywood Bowl
"I was ahead of my time. I did what I did on my own with no help from anybody."
Graduated from Stanford
Olympic athlete who loved to surf, hunt and lift weights
Given a seven year plan by his parents to work up to publisher of the Times
Spent time in the Air Force during the Korean War
Becomes editor of the times. Takes it from being biased paper.
Demands “uncommon excellence” from his journalists
At 52, Otis turns the paper over to first non-family publisher Tom Johnson. Paper had been family run for almost century.
Johnson only 5th publisher
March 2000 paper is sold to Chicago Tribune Company for $8.3 million2006: Feb. 27, Otis Chandler dies at age 78
"My parents never forced me to be the best at whatever I do. That somehow came from within me."
Inventing LA: Full Show PBS