Oran Asa, owner and publisher of Northeast Newspapers, was a newspaperman his whole adult life.
Asa used his eight newspapers as forums for news that was too small or too localized to be covered in bigger papers. He ran stories about social service club meetings, public hearings, weddings and anniversaries.
But Asa also used his papers as political tools: to defend the best interests of the community as he defined them.
Although the papers never wielded as much clout as more powerful daily newspapers, they raised a persistent voice in debates over community issues.
Asa graduated from Occidental College in 1935, the depths of the Great Depression. With no other prospects, Asa accepted a $100-a-month job cleaning the offices of the Highland Park News-Herald. He didn't intend to stay long; just until the economy improved and he could find another job.
But the temporary job as an office boy turned into a lifetime passion.
He later left the News-Herald to start his own Highland Park Journal on a shoestring: no offices, no advertising and no staff. He wrote all the articles for the first editions, and typed many of them in his car.
Later, a friend with an insurance business offered to give him a spare office and one day, a man walked in and offered to sell advertising for the new publication.
From those modest beginnings, Asa's upstart Highland Park Journal grew to a staff of 10 and became stiff competition for the older newspaper. Eleven years later, the News-Herald's owner asked Asa to buy him out, and the two papers merged, becoming the News-Herald & Journal.
Asa subsequently acquired the the Lincoln Heights Bulletin-News, the Mt. Washington Star Review, the Eastside Journal, the El Sereno Star, the Eagle Rock Sentinel and the Belvedere Citizen. He also founded the Pasadena Journal.
Asa took a hands-on role in managing the newspapers and his philosophy permeated his printed products, friends and colleagues say. He never shied away from political controversy, and he never feared taking an unpopular position.
Asa was president of the California Newspaper Publishers Association in 1978. He helped define the term "community newspaper" through six decades. He died at age 91 on April 26, 2002.
The newspapers he published were so good that most people took them for granted, and only really appreciated them after they were gone.
--From the Boulevard Sentinel and Los Angeles Times