Former 'LA Times' Publisher Otis Chandler Dies
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY.
An obituary for a science fiction writer who won a Genius Award, Octavia Butler has died at the age of 58. Her story in a moment.
I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
And I'm Alex Chadwick.
First, another notable death to report today, that of the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Otis Chandler. He died this morning at his home in Ojai, California at age 78. He's credited with taking the Los Angeles Times from a local rag into one of the most respected voices in American journalism. His family was immensely wealthy and powerful in Southern California. He enjoyed the privileges he was born to, but he also worked his way through every part of the publishing enterprise, learning how to run the presses, as well as write for and manage them.
Dennis McDougal is the author of Privilege Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty.
Dennis McDougal, he became publisher of the Los Angeles Times at a very early age, 33 years old back in 1960, and set about right away to turn the paper around. What was it that inspired him?
Mr. DENNIS MCDOUGAL (Author, Privilege Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty): Well, I think that he was influenced a lot by his East Coast education. He left Los Angeles when he was in his early teens and studied at Exeter back on the East Coast. And he was the golden boy. You know, I mean Otis, from an early age was a surfer, he was a weight lifter, he was blonde, he was everybody's idea of a California beach boy, and he comes to a place like Exeter and he didn't fit in.
I think he came back with a completely different idea about the newspaper that all of his classmates back there use to make fun of, that his father and his grandfather had run, and decided then and there that he was probably going to be making some changes if he ever became publisher.
CHADWICK: Well, he did. His father made him publisher at an age when no one else had expected it. He started spending money right away. He moved the paper from being editorially quite conservative, to now a center, or center left. Big, big changes for a young man who just seemed to have huge ambitions for what he was going to do.
Mr. MCDOUGAL: Yeah, I think that it was a shock. One of the very first things that Otis did was to run a series of articles on the John Birch Society, of which his aunt and uncle were primary moving forces. And writing a front-page, signed editorial condemning the Birch Society, which sent shock waves through the rest of the family.
CHADWICK: He ran the paper for 20 years. He then resigned his position as publisher. He kind of kicked himself upstairs, didn't really seem to participate that much in the paper after that. What happened? He was still a very young man, in his early 50s.
Mr. MCDOUGAL: Well, he was basically kicked out. He was kicked out by the other Chandlers, same people he that offended when he first took over the paper as publisher.
CHADWICK: Because the family was unhappy with just the way the paper was going, and may be the financial situation?
Mr. MCDOUGAL: Yeah. I think they were philosophically opposed to the way that the paper had moved from the far right to the center. In addition to that, profits began to slide a little bit in the late 1980s. Those profits really took a nosedive. Times-Mirror began selling off its properties. Ultimately, it wound up with the paper having to be sold to the Tribune Company and the Chandler family bowing out entirely. But in the meantime, Otis's reign, as probably one of the greatest publishers of the 20th century, had come to a final and sad end.
CHADWICK: Dennis McDougal, former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and author of Privilege Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty. Otis Chandler died this morning at his home at age 78 after a long illness.
Dennis McDougal, thank you.
Mr. MCDOUGAL: You're welcome, Alex.