Otis Chandler

28 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The Los Angeles Times produced an epic tribute Tuesday to honor Otis Chandler, its legendary publisher who inherited a stodgy family jewel in 1960 and, for the next 20 years, transformed a parochial, right of center, broadsheet into a major American paper.

If a Pulitzer Prize is awarded for obits, the draft filed by the late David Shaw before his death Aug. 1, and Mitchell Landsberg, who re-wrote the text and did additional reporting, qualifies ñ and not just because the farewell runs 13,500 words.

It’s a candid, revealing piece - warts and all ñ about the tumultuous history under three Chandler publishers, starting with Harry Chandler, Otisí grandfather; Norman Chandler, his father - and very influential mother, Dorothy ìBuffî Chandler. How Otis followed an unexpected path as a maverick to remake the paper over 20 years with top talent, often to the displeasure of many family members, is riveting.

That the family, majority Times Mirror stockholders, sold out to the Tribune Co. in 2000, and Otisí disenchantment with its management leading to his praise for the merger, is covered in unvarnished detail.

For a city with so little understood history, the obit is mportant to educate a new generation of readers, and for newly arrived editors and reporters to grasp in the wake of Tribune-mandated buyouts which cost the paper valuable institutional memory. 

It was refreshing for many of us who remember the Otis era to see the Timesí former Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conradís soaring eagle tribute on the op-ed page. Conrad, love him or loathe him, made these pages sizzle. It’s no longer true.

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