- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Otis Chandler, the former publisher of the Los Angeles Times who transformed his family’s provincial, conservative newspaper into a respected national media voice, died Feb. 27 at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 78.

Mr. Chandler had been suffering from a degenerative brain disorder known as Lewy body disease, said Tom Johnson, who succeeded Mr. Chandler as publisher.

Mr. Chandler’s wife, Bettina, was with him when he died, said Mr. Johnson, the retired chairman and chief executive of CNN News Group.

Mr. Chandler was the scion of a family that wielded financial and political power in the Los Angeles area for decades.

As publisher, he spent most of his career chafing against what he sensed was an East Coast bias against Los Angeles and fought to elevate the Times to on par with Eastern rivals.

“He was a strong leader and dedicated his paper to excellence as well as financial success, and there weren’t many of those,” Ben Bradlee, vice president at large of The Washington Post, said.

Otis Chandler was born in 1927, the son of Times publisher Norman Chandler and great-grandson of Times founder Harrison Gray Otis.

His mother was Dorothy Chandler, the philanthropist and arts patron who led a campaign in the 1950s to save the financially troubled Hollywood Bowl and a drive to build a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic — the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Mr. Chandler was groomed from an early age to take control of the family’s newspaper. He worked as a printer’s apprentice, reporter and in the advertising and circulation departments.

He succeeded his father as publisher in 1960 at age 33.

The paper then was considered parochial and partisan, a mouthpiece for conservative political causes.

Almost immediately, Mr. Chandler initiated changes designed to make the paper one of the country’s best.

He moved it toward the political center and angered conservative allies — and family members — by publishing a series of stories on the right-wing John Birch Society.

He hired more reporters, raised salaries, opened overseas bureaus and increased the paper’s coverage of Washington.

Mr. Chandler also expanded the reach of Times Mirror, starting a news service with The Washington Post and acquiring newspapers, television stations and other media outlets.

His efforts resulted in the Times winning seven Pulitzer prizes during his tenure.

Mr. Chandler resigned as the paper’s publisher in 1980 after 20 years at the helm.

He remained mostly quiet about the paper’s operation after he left as chairman and editor in chief in 1985.

But he returned as a newsroom hero in 2000 to publicly chide the paper’s management, which he blamed for a scandal involving an advertising arrangement with a sports arena and severe cost-cutting that damaged its reputation.

Soon after, the Chandler Family Trust sold newspaper parent company Times Mirror Co. to the Tribune Co.

In addition to his wife, survivors include sons Harry and Michael and daughters Carolyn Chandler and Cathleen Chandler.

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