He was aided by his circulation manager, the wily Harry Chandler, who secretly bought the distribution routes of the Los Angeles Herald and sabotaged the rival paper. Among other things, they established L. McNamara, one of two men later convicted of the bombing. I hoped to get General Otis.
The Chandler family came to own well over one million acres of Southern California and benefited handsomely as Los Angeles sprawled; enormous suburbs in the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere were built on Chandler land, and Harry Chandler was an investor in an all-white development called Hollywoodland that yielded the iconic Hollywood sign.
Their son, Otis, took over the family business in and set about modernizing the newspaper—which, truth be told, was fairly terrible. Humorist S. Otis Chandler changed that, bringing in top-flight editors and reporters from other papers.
Growing with its city, the Times became a powerhouse. At its peak, in , it sold 1.
Its newsroom of 1, journalists was the biggest in the nation; well-paid Times reporters flew first-class to far-flung assignments. But the media business began to change, and so did the Los Angeles Times. Otis Chandler, the last family member to run the parent company—at that point known as Times Mirror—turned the paper over to a non-family publisher, Tom Johnson, in and left the company a few years later.
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With the rise of the internet, the Los Angeles Times , like all newspapers, quickly began to lose readers and advertisers—and power. The paper began trimming its huge staff and otherwise cutting costs. By the late s, the company was being run by a former General Mills executive named Mark Willes—internally nicknamed the Cereal Killer.
That arrangement set off a firestorm of protest inside and outside the paper, and the Chandler family decided it had had enough. Suddenly the oh-so-Californian Los Angeles Times was owned by—horrors! But Tribune was a respected media company, and many observers saw the combination of the two companies as a positive development, especially in the wake of the Staples Center fiasco. Tribune installed John Carroll from the Baltimore Sun as editor, and the Times won 13 Pulitzer Prizes for journalism excellence in five years, including a whopping five Pulitzers in It shrank the newsroom by positions in the early s and pushed Carroll to cut more deeply.
He refused and resigned from the paper in Over the next few years, multiple Times publishers and editors were fired for refusing to slash costs—or quit rather than make cuts. Publisher Jeff Johnson was forced out a little more than a year after Carroll left. And so on. In all, the paper had eight editors and eight publishers in less than 18 years of Tribune ownership. The Chandler family, which owned a large stake in Tribune Co.
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They quietly searched for a local buyer for the paper—David Geffen and other L. And suddenly the first few years of the Tribune era in Los Angeles seemed like a golden age of benevolent occupation. Profane and opinionated , Zell thought he could revive Tribune with bellicose management, aggressive marketing, and tricky financial engineering. Most of the rest came out of the employee stock ownership plan, a very risky proposition.
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Zell ricocheted around the Tribune empire making ambitious promises and insulting employees who questioned him. But the recession tanked the commercial real estate market, and by the end of that year Tribune had filed for bankruptcy. Tribune Co. In Los Angeles, the Times newsroom had been sliced by more than half from its peak, to about employees, and daily print circulation was ,, less than half its pinnacle.
Like Zell, Michael W. Ferro Jr. Also like Zell, he was given to making grandiose pronouncements and wearing open-necked shirts. Again like Zell, he had purchased a Chicago newspaper, Tribune rival the Chicago Sun-Times , but he was looking for bigger game. Or something like that.
Ferro gave the company a new name.
The venerable Tribune Publishing would now be called…. The new name was short for Tribune Online Content, but its jarringly onomatopoeic sound—and the goofy video—made Tronc the laughingstock of the journalism business. Ferro, undaunted, pressed on. Once again, horrified Times stalwarts hoped against hope that some Los Angeles billionaire would step in and buy the paper.
Geffen, investor Ron Burkle, and philanthropist Eli Broad were mentioned as possible white knights. Media-business raiders also saw the reeling Tronc as a target. Gannett Co. The roller-coaster ownership and ongoing staff cuts were taking their toll on the Times. Under Tronc, the newsroom fell to about employees, one-third of its all-time high.
Another , or so customers were paying for online and digital replica versions, but those bring in much less subscription and ad revenue. Shell-shocked Times staffers began an active resistance. On January 18, it was reported that publisher Ross Levinsohn, an internet-industry veteran who had been on the job for just five months, had been the subject of two sexual harassment suits in previous jobs.
He was placed on a leave of absence and never returned to the paper, though Tronc later cleared him in an independent investigation and made him an executive. The next day, News Guild leaders announced that the newsroom had overwhelmingly approved forming a union—breaking with more than a century of tradition at the Times.
Ferro soon deteriorated, leading to Dr. He takes over one of the most decorated newspapers in the country, with 44 Pulitzer Prizes. But The Times has struggled in recent years as newspapers across the country have lost heft and cultural importance. Last decade, the paper weathered the cost-slashing reign of Samuel Zell , who took Tribune Company into bankruptcy. In , after emerging from bankruptcy proceedings, the company spun off its newspaper division, creating Tribune Publishing.
When Mr. Ferro, a Chicago entrepreneur and a former owner of The Chicago Sun-Times, took a major stake in Tribune Publishing in , he introduced grand plans that included the use of artificial intelligence. He also rebranded the company as Tronc, which stood for Tribune online content, a name that has gotten laughs in newsrooms ever since.
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The brand name appears formally as tronc, in lowercase letters, in company statements. But over the past year the paper proved too much to handle. In August, Tronc ousted top members of the Times management team, including Davan Maharaj, its editor and publisher, and installed the former Yahoo executive Ross Levisohn as publisher. Editors and reporters had hope for their new leaders, but the relationship quickly soured.
Last month, on the day when journalists at the paper celebrated their first successful unionization vote since its founding in , Mr. Levinsohn was placed on leave after National Public Radio reported that he had been accused of sexual harassment at two previous jobs. Morale sank further with the suspension of the Times business editor Kimi Yoshino. To calm the discord, Tronc last week replaced Mr. Tronc said on Wednesday that its investigation into the publisher, Mr.
Levinsohn, had found no wrongdoing. He will remain at the company in a new role: chief executive of a newly formed division called Tribune Interactive. Times Guild looks forward to working with a local owner who can help us preserve The Times as a guardian of our community and as the voice of the American West. Inside The Times, there is hope that the paper might pursue a business model similar to those at The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have seen increases in paid subscriptions.
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