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Behind the scenes: Paul Conrad ‘ousted’ from Times

Bill Boyarsky, writing for LA Observed, recounts the rocky history of Paul Conrad’s employment with the LA Times toward the end of his official career with the paper in the mid-90’s.

Otis Chandler steadfastly protected Conrad from criticisms from conservative Chandler family members and Times Mirror executives, who didn’t feel the camaraderie that Conrad shared with his Times business-side luncheon companions. Tom Johnson said one person enraged by Conrad was Dr. Franklin Murphy, the chairman of Times Mirror. “He would come down to Otis’s office with the tear sheet of Conrad’s cartoon in hand. But to the best of my knowledge, Otis never, never told Paul Conrad he should back off.”

After Otis Chandler retired as publisher in 1980 and moved into the leadership of Times Mirror, Conrad’s troubles began. In 1986, the conservative Chandler family members forced Otis out as editor-in-chief and chairman of Times Mirror. Three years later, Johnson, who had succeeded him as publisher, was ordered to fire the editor of the editorial pages, Tony Day, a moderate who was liberal on social issues and a steadfast Conrad supporter. Johnson refused and was fired. That year, Bill Thomas, who stood up for Conrad, retired as editor. The editorial page became bland and more conservative. Conrad, the opposite of bland and conservative, was out of place and out of highly placed friends and supporters.

H/T: Mike Lynch

Community Comments

#1 Stacy Curtis
@ 11:23 am

The changing of an editor or publisher can be hazardous to a cartoonist’s career.

#2 Steve Greenberg
@ 11:19 am

What Stacy said.

And years prior to the 1993 buyout that Conrad felt compelled to take, the Times moved his cartoons off the usual space on the editorial page onto the op-ed page, a move that was seen by many as a slap to Conrad and a way for the paper to separate him from their institutional editorial voices.

#3 John Cole
@ 10:42 am

Interesting PBS documentary about the LA Times and the familial cloak-and-dagger show known as the Chandlers.

No mention in it about Con, that I know. Still, it makes the case that the paper’s glory days (i.e. — when it wasn’t a GOP party organ and social newsletter for the extended Chandler clan) came under Otis Chandler.

#4 Matt Wuerker
@ 12:45 pm

I think the fact that right after they showed Conrad the door the Times turned around and hired Michael Ramirez makes it pretty clear the company had political differences with Conrad.

A lot of their readers suffered a kind of political whiplash when they went looking for their morning cup of Con… and got a Ramirez stick in the eye instead.

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