Recent news about struggles in leadership and direction at the Los Angeles Times is a further reminder that newspapers are finding it tough to compete with Internet-based news sources. In the 1920s, competition was of a different kind. Los Angeles had several major daily newspapers, including the Times, the Herald and the Express, all of which were founded in the 1870s and 1880s, as well as William Randolph Hearst’s Examiner, which joined the fray in 1903.
In 1923, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, scion of the immensely rich New York capitalist family, launched the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News in an effort to create his own newspaper chain (the Homestead collection features an original copy of the first issue from 3 September). Vanderbilt had been a reporter in New York for a few years, but had no experience running a paper. Trying to compete against the likes of titans like Hearst and the Times’ Harry Chandler proved fruitless. By 1926, the floundering paper went into receivership.
Investors led by book publisher Manchester Boddy took over the Illustrated Daily News and the bound volume for October 1928 featured here was produced under Boddy’s leadership. His focus was on battling vice and corruption in Los Angeles, of which there was no shortage during the Roaring Twenties. His crusades against the Los Angeles Police Department and its chief James E. Davis, as well as against District Attorney Asa Keyes, were particularly noteworthy and it had the added benefit of making the paper profitable for the first time.
The accompanying photo shows the front page of the 1 October 1928 edition with a blaring headline about investigations into Keyes. The D.A. was found guilty of accepting a bribe from the corrupt Julian Petroleum Company and served 19 months at San Quentin before being pardoned.
Although Boddy was a Republican, his decision to steer the paper towards Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 elections, making the Daily News, as it was retitled, the only Democratic sheet in Los Angeles. This ensured its further success during the Great Depression and World War II. In the post-war era, however, the paper found itself on the skids as changing political views and other factors hit the publication hard. Boddy sold the paper in mid-1952 and subsequent owners could not stop the decline. The Daily News was sold in 1954 to the Chandlers, owners of the Times, effectively ending the paper’s existence.
Thanks to Assistant Director Paul R. Spitzzeri for this contribution.