Thursday, December 11, 2008

Los Angeles newspapers

Tribune Co. Prepares For Possible Bankruptcy Filing

Los Angeles has had many newspapers over the years, starting with the bilingual Los Angeles Star--first published May 17, 1851. By the time of the Civil War the Star was printed in English only, and its editor, Harry Hamilton, was outspoken in his support of the Confederacy and disdain for President Lincoln. Hamilton was even imprisoned for awhile, but later became a state senator. The liberal media was not so liberal in those days.

The Times came along in 1881, and General Harrison Gray Otis "acquired" it the same year. No idea who the original owner was. The paper was originally printed on a water-powered machine, which had to be stopped whenever fish got caught in the wheel. Seriously. Through the 19th and much of the 20th century it was extraordinarily anti-labor and conservative. In 1937, the DC press corps voted it the "least fair and reliable" paper in the country!

Decades (and many Pulitzer Prizes) later, it's simply a victim of changing times. Like the Star, El Clamor Publico, the Tribune (there were several incarnations), the City News, Mirror, Record, Evening Herald, Herald Examiner, and all the others (here's a list) its day may have passed. Or not--who knows?

Remember All the President's Men? That funky arm-rest that Dustin Hoffman is leaning on is a typewriter. May have been electric, though I can't see the cord. If you made a mistake on a typewritten page, you had to type the entire page over again. Barbarous.

Anyway, All the President's Men came out in 1974. By the late 80s, I remember a friend pointing out how the technology had changed--fax machines, cordless pushbutton phones, and even word processors were available. The "newsroom" that seemed so exciting in the movie (and that no doubt sparked many journalism majors) was a relic of the past. Even then, though, in the late 80s, no one could envision NOT getting a daily newspaper.

I think I'm the only one left in my building still getting the Times each morning, which can't be very cost-efficient. Daily newspapers have been around since, what--the 1830s, 1840s? Like cars with internal combustion engines, just didn't expect to see their market collapse in my lifetime.


Frances said...

Actually, Harrison Gray Otis didn't become the sole owner of the LA Times until 1886. He bought a quarter interest in the Los Angeles Daily Times in 1881, ended up owning half of the paper, and then quarreled with the other co-owner Henry H. Boyce. Otis borrowed $18,000 from the banker Isaias Hellman in March 1886 to buy out Boyce, thus starting the family dynasty.

Vix said...

Thank you for clarifying that! I guess most LA history books tend to simplify and leave out that piece of history.