|WHY A DAILY NEWS WEBSITE?
by Rip Rense
"(Descanso) gardens will be remembered long after the Daily News and all the other newspapers in Los Angeles, perhaps, are forgotten."
"I'm tempted to think that in its short life, the Los Angeles Daily News meant more to us than the prettiest bed of camelias."
Why a Daily News tribute site? Surely all L.A. papers are worthy of remembrance, and inspire nostalgia. True, but none, really, in the way the Daily News does.
The News was an improbable, kind of ramshackle, irreverent and very un-self-serious affair in a city whose other papers weren't. The Hearst Herald-Express was unapologetically, crassly sensational, the Hearst Examiner (the number one paper until the 60's) was. . .Hearstian. The Times was pompous, gray, racist, and very Republican. (The pomposity somehow never left.)
But The News? Well, it wasn't a broadsheet, and wasn't a tabloid. It was an in-between "oversized tabloid," with lovely (unpretentious) cursive masthead, and for years was printed on peach-colored paper. It was amusingly sensational, and as the pro-union, self-proclaimed "Only Democratic Newspaper West of the Rockies," the choice of the working class. The average guy. The average gal.
Housed in an old brick building at the corner of Pico and Los Angeles, The News was owned by a hands-off, rather humanitarian publisher who hired people he liked, and left them alone to do their jobs. Manchester Boddy wrote and broadcast a popular column, but ultimately took more interest in the camelia gardens that The News financed than his paper, and it's rather poetic to regard his former estate, now Descanso Gardens, as the grave of the Daily News.
Compared with the other L.A. papers, The News was also a paragon of equal opportunity employment. During World War II, its ranks swelled with women reporters and at least one photographer (the remarkable Helen Brush, who once photographed the birth of her own child.) Sparky Saldana became what must been the first latino city editor on an L.A. (English) daily paper, and his brother, Lupi, was a sportswriter. African-Americans were employed in the pressroom and editorial, and Japanese-American L.A. journalist Mary Kitano was hired as Daily News librarian, more or less straight out of the Manzanar "relocation camp." A Chinese-American woman, Mamie Leung, was a longtime reporter.
But really, the opportunity wasn't equal. It was sort of narrow. If you were a person of style, panache, personality, interesting character, you were in. While newspapers are famed for attracting free-spirited types, The News attracted freer spirits. Journalism degree? Didn't matter. If you were an intriguing person and capable with language, you were likely to get a job. Veteran L.A. reporter Paul Weeks moved from New Mexico just to work at The Daily News. It had a national reputation for being a "newspaperman's newspaper."And while it can't be said that the paper covered minority issues in L.A. adequately, it did so far more than its rivals.
Its environs sort of mirrored its attitude. Where The Times had its gray concrete monolith and the Examiner its Julia Morgan-designed Casbah-on-Broadway, The News was housed in a three-story former Cadillac dealership from the 1920's. No heat or air conditioning. Windows were open around the clock, and on hot summer nights at least one bored city editor used to plink empty booze bottles off the sills with a BB rifle. Speaking of which, Boddy once issued a formal edict banning booze bottles from plain view, in case school kids came down to tour the joint (and besides, the plinking was making a racket when he broadcast his weekly commentary right from his office.) One reporter got around this rule with a teapot full of bourbon, refilled regularly at nearby Don's Bar, then hoisted up to the second-floor city room by rope and copy boy. (Really.) When the first-floor presses ran, the whole joint shook like a 5.0 on the Richter Scale. the presses caught fire about once a month.
Yet this paper probably had the best pure writers in town. The great Matt Weinstock---the Herb Caen of L.A.---wrote his around-town column in The News for decades. Ned Cronin was easily the most stylish and literate sports columnist in the city, as was attested to by his great friendship with one of his most admiring readers, the author Gene Fowler. Literary flourishes crept into the reporting here and there, though hardly pretentiously. Sportswriter Art Rense might refer to Rabelais or Rome while writing about Norm Van Brocklin or Bob Waterfield of the L.A. Rams. The weather story was occasionally written under nome de plumes such as "Will O'The Wisp."
Irreverent? If The News had two photos of the mayor, one with his finger up his nose, guess which one would run. This is not to say the paper was frivolous. It aimed to cover L.A., and the world, and it did so with flare, wit, and punch. Just as a newspaper should, and just as the other papers didn't.
As for my connection with the Daily News, well, it began early in my life. Specifically, on my second day:
Right. I began
making the papers shortly after my birth.
|Special thanks to all the "Newsies" who helped with this site, especially the late Paul Weeks, who was also a good friend. Anyone with Daily News photos, memorabilia, old issues, anecdotes is urged to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org ---RR.|
copyright 2003, 2012 Rip Rense