Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Otis Chandler's New York

(53) Otis Chandler’s New York

Wait a minute. Wasn’t he the owner of the Los Angeles Times? What’s THAT got to do with New York?

Well, yes, he was that, but a lot more.

Once, a long time ago, he was the President of the Associated Press, which is headquartered in New York. At the time, the president came from the ranks of the newspapers that collectively own the AP. That’s not true anymore. After Chandler, they wanted one of “their own” at the top, picked Wes Gallagher who served for awhile and who picked Lou Boccardi who served for millennia and who should have picked Bill Ahern, but didn’t.

Anyway, Chandler was one of those surfer dude types who whooshed around the place followed by an entourage. Those of us in the trenches (the fourth floor of a building in Rockefeller Center is a trench?) thought “what could this guy know about news?”

Plenty, apparently.

Chandler turned the piece of junk in Los Angeles into a first class newspaper, a position from which it tumbled only when scrapping members of the Chandler family couldn’t decide whether it was an advertising medium or a cereal company. (note, “news” wasn’t one of the choices.)

Chandler was able to woo Harry Guggenheim into selling to his company the newspaper he and his wife founded, Newsday… then, to the shock and awe of reader, advertiser and employees alike, improving it. Wasn’t bad to begin with.

He did things like open foreign bureaus, expand Newsday into New York City, start a Sunday edition, move publication time from afternoons to mornings. He and his hench-dudes created an investigative team second to none.

When the LA Times fell on hard times, so did Newsday. Both papers are now part of Chicago’s Tribune Company which cannot seem to make up its mind whether it’s an advertising medium or a cereal factory, or maybe a publisher and broadcaster (one notch greater than the scrapping Chandlers.)

But all of this was a long time ago. And what did this prince of commerce do after they pulled the rug out from under him?

Same as a pimp. Nothing. But nothing with great style.

He didn’t have to work when he worked. He CERTAINLY didn’t have to work after they sold the Times and all of its outlets.

But by doing nothing much, he still showed he was smarter than most of his co-princes. Smart enough to stay out of the way. Unlike, say, Lee Iacocca of Chrysler. Or George Catacosinos of LILCO.

Chandler died of some dread combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Probably not the best way to go, but not the worst, either.

He did more for New York than a lot of New Yorkers, and he didn’t make a huge show of it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

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