Otis Chandler was an athlete, a weightlifter, race-car driver, big-game hunter, surfer, antique automobile collector and cyclist; and not the least of those accomplishments was his 20-year tenure as publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
From 1960 to 1980 he helped to reshape and improve the paper so quickly, on a scale so grand, that The Times' rise to excellence is nearly unparalleled in American journalistic history. It was Chandler's love of a challenge that pushed him to reform the stodgy – but successful – family-run newspaper into a respected publishing giant.
During Chandler’s 20 years as publisher, and his subsequent five years as editor in chief and chairman of the board of The Times’ then-parent company, Times Mirror, the paper won 10 Pulitzer Prizes and expanded from two to 34 foreign and domestic bureaus. At the same time, it doubled its circulation to more than 1 million daily and for many years published more news and advertising than any other paper in the country.
Chandler cared deeply about how The Times was regarded by East Coast opinion-makers, and their perception of "a bad newspaper from a hick town" spurred his commitment to remake it.
Born in Los Angeles in 1927, Chandler frequently accompanied his father to the office and slid down the chutes that were used to drop papers from the press room to the delivery trucks. During summers, he often worked to move heavy printing plates and equipment. As a 20-year-old in the Air Force, he never envisioned his life’s work as journalism until his father told him of an "executive training program."
He would work his way through every department at the paper: production, circulation, the mailroom, mechanical, advertising and eventually, the newsroom. He said that once he started as a reporter, he began to feel differently about a career at The Times. He was the only reporter, rookie or veteran, whose name regularly appeared in both the Sports section, where his exploits as a competitive weightlifter were chronicled, and also in the Society pages, where his appearance at black-tie events always rated a mention.
In 1957 he became special assistant to his father. In 1960, it was announced he was immediately taking over as his father’s successor and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Chandler wasted no time in hiring some of the best and brightest reporters of the day, and he replaced 22 of 23 department heads within the first year.
Chandler didn't dissolve ties with the paper until he was 70 years old in 1998. He remained an avid reader of the paper and once said that "nothing but my kids is more important to me than the Los Angeles Times."
Otis Chandler passed away at age 78 in 2006. His obituary in The Times declared: "The paper you are reading is his monument."