Norman Chandler (September 14, 1899 – October 20, 1973) was the publisher of the Los Angeles Times from 1945 to 1960, and largely responsible for the success of the newspaper. Joining the team as a secretary to his father, LA Times owner Harry Chandler, Norman Chandler helped to transform the daily newspaper from a conservative regional publication to one of the largest and widely read newspapers in the world. His career with the LA Times would be followed by five Chandler generations, making the paper a successful family-run business for over a century.
Seeking to create a community-like work environment, Chandler was one of the first newspaper employers to offer benefits to his employees, including health insurance and pension plans, and to foster community spirit. His wife, too, recognized the importance of community spirit, instigating great revitalization of the culture of Los Angeles. Always one to recognize his success as coming from the success of his employees, Chandler constantly sought to create a warm, caring environment in which the individual needs of the workers and their families were always a consideration. In this way, Chandler was able to bring out the best in his employees so that the paper as a whole benefited, together with the larger community of Los Angeles, and beyond into the wider society.
Norman Chandler was born on September 14, 1899, in Los Angeles, California, the first son of eight children. Born to father Harry Chandler, and mother Marian Otis Chandler, Norman was raised in a strict environment of little privileges despite family wealth. His mother was the daughter of General Harrison Gray Otis who had purchased a share of the Los Angeles Times in 1882 and served as its publisher for 35 years. Upon his retirement, Otis welcomed his son-in-law Harry Chandler, Norman’s father, into the family business, where he would serve at the LA Times’ second publisher.
Harry Chandler was demanding of his children, and expected excellence from each one. Harry saw that many of the children, Norman included, worked manual labor as young adults. Norman, the eldest son and his father’s favorite, attended Stanford University, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. After graduation, in 1922 Chandler began working at the Los Angeles Times as a secretary to his father.
Also in 1922, Chandler married college-sweetheart Dorothy Buffum Chandler, whom he had met while at a school dance at Stanford; the couple would have two children, Camilla and Otis. Throughout Chandler’s impressive career with the LA Times, his wife Dorothy would lead the Los Angeles' cultural revitalization. She was responsible for the restoration of the Hollywood Bowl, and for the construction of the Los Angeles Music Center.
On October 20, 1973, Norman Chandler died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 74. His son Otis succeeded him as publisher, keeping the LA Times a successful family-run business for more than 100 years.
While working at the Los Angeles Times, Chandler emerged as a strong political and social force, despite his introverted and shy personality which stood in direct contrast to that of his father’s. Fulfilling a sense of duty, Chandler quickly became an excellent businessman, but had little passion for the cutthroat combat of political and economic struggles which his father sought to plaster on every page.
In September 1936, he was promoted to the position of general manager within the paper. As general manager, Chandler sought to improve the working environment of the newspaper. In 1937 he created the first personnel department within an American newspaper, and hired labor management expert Paul Bell to oversee it. Chandler sought to hire the best candidates at high wages and offered good benefits, in order to retain employees and secure their happiness with the company. He signed off on nearly $200,000 annually in Christmas bonuses for his employees. In 1941 Chandler would be named president of the Los Angeles Times.
Upon his father’s death in 1944, Chandler served as the newspaper’s publisher and just the third editor of the publication. In this role, Chandler continually sought ways to care for what he called his Los Angeles Times “family.” As head of this “family,” Chandler organized a monthly employee newsletter, entitled “Among Ourselves.” The newsletter announced personal news of his employees, including promotions, retirements, births, and deaths. Chandler also organized various employee picnic gatherings and retirement banquets to foster community spirit among his employees. He provided his employees with a company cafeteria, medical insurance, and pension plans. He also allotted office space within the newspaper headquarters for the Pfaffinger Foundation, an emergency fund for employees. All of these offers amounted to a highly unusual work atmosphere for the 1930s and 1940s. Chandler’s workers responded favorably; the effects on stability and efficiency were immeasurable.
The LA Times quickly prospered under Chandler, and gained national, as well as regional, prominence. In 1947 it became the largest-circulation newspaper in Los Angeles, and in 1961 the Sunday edition had a circulation of more than one million. Chandler modernized the newspaper’s operations, transforming the LA Times into one of the most automated newspapers in the United States.
Chandler would retire as publisher in 1960, leaving the job to his son Otis Chandler, who broadened the perspective of the paper, making more editorial space available for liberal viewpoints. Norman Chandler remained with the Los Angeles Times as chairman of the board from 1961-1968. During this period Chandler sought to expand operations, and purchased the daily Newsday of Garden City, New York, the Orange Coast Daily Pilot in Orange County, California, and the Dallas Times Herald of Texas.
Norman Chandler expanded upon a family legacy that was instilled within him at birth. An excellent businessman, Chandler recognized the importance of a stable and welcoming work environment in order for business to be efficient and prosperous. Always one to recognize his success as coming from the success of his employees, Chandler was one of the first employers to offers his workers extensive work-related benefits. Under Chandler the Los Angeles Times was transformed from a small, conservative journal, to an expansive and influential daily publication. The newspaper would remain family-run and successful for more than 100 years; it was eventually sold in March of 2000 to the Tribune Company of Chicago.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Berges, Marshall. 1984. The Life and Time of Los Angeles: A Newspaper, a Family, and a City. Atheneum Publishing. ISBN 0689114273.
- McDougal, Dennis. 2002. Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty. Da Capo Publishing. ISBN 0306811618.
- Wink, Walter. 1999. The Powers That Be. Galilee Trade. ISBN 0385487525.
All links retrieved November 15, 2022.
- Los Angeles Times Official website.
- Norman Chandler Encyclopedia Britannica online.
- The New World Time Magazine, Monday, Jul. 15, 1957.
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