Thursday, December 10, 2009
John M. Miller Becomes Chief of L.A. Evening Express
By ROGER M. GRACE
John M. Miller, while maintaining his law practice, moonlighted as a newspaper executive. The Feb. 24, 1900 issue of the Los Angeles Evening Express announces that the newspaper had been sold, and that Miller, one of the five new owners, was to be president of the company.
It might well have been supposed by the quintet that the Express would have had an exclusive story that day on its own sale. However, the rival p.m. daily, the Los Angeles Record, got wind of it, reporting:
“The sale of the Los Angeles Evening Express will be announced in the columns of that paper tonight.”
The report had all the pertinent details as to the members of the new “syndicate,” what their roles would be, and what the newspaper’s plans were.
“It will be the constant endeavor of the new management,” an Express editorial of March 3, 1900, vows, “to improve the paper in all departments until it fully measures up to the high ideal they have in mind, and the Express is recognized as the great evening newspaper of the Pacific coast.”
The editorial declares:
“The present owners of the Express own every dollar’s worth of stock in the paper; they have no personal axes to grind; they have no enemies to punish and no friends to reward. They have become interested in the Express solely from business motives.”
An editorial in the Express on March 27—which marked 29 years since the newspaper’s founding—says of the Express:
“It celebrates this anniversary with hopefulness, feeling that it has arrived at years of discretion; that the future gives promise of achievement in the work of enlarging its usefulness to the community and section, and in the building up of a solid and enduring newspaper property.”
(Then the city’s oldest newspaper, it did endure for decades; it merged with the Herald in 1931, becoming the “Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express,” and was next known as the “Herald-Express” from 1950-1962. After Hearst’s morning Examiner fused with the “Herald-Express” in 1962, under the moniker “Herald-Examiner,” the Express did not die; on the Page One masthead, there appeared the depiction of an eagle, and across the bottom was a small box containing the word “Express,” thus maintaining “user.” The Herald-Examiner folded on Nov. 2, 1989. The Express and its progeny had lasted 118 years.)
Newspapers in 1900 were frequently aligned with political parties—and some even had “Republican” or “Democrat” in their names. The Express’s Feb. 24 announcement of new ownership includes the pledge that the newspaper would be “fearlessly independent.”
Republican Gov. Henry T. Gage on March 16, 1900, took to task some Republican dailies in the state for seeking to exert too great an influence on party affairs. A March 19 editorial in the Express recites:
“In his speech before the Young Men’s Republican league banquet Saturday night Governor Gage took occasion to severely excoriate the proprietors of the San Francisco Chronicle and Call and the Los Angeles Times. The publishers of these newspapers were charged with attempting to dictate Republican politics in the state, to say who may and may not appeal for the suffrages of the people, and with representing ‘the printed spite of a malicious and disappointed editor’ as to the expression of public opinion.”
The editorial doesn’t take sides on the question of whether Gage was right or wrong in his allegations, but does say that the speech “aptly describes what the Express is not and does not propose to become.”
In actuality, Gage did not name the newspapers he was criticizing; their identities were inferred by the Express (and others).
The governor warned:
“[I]f newspaper bosses shall be permitted to dominate the councils of the republican party of this state, weak and pliant officials will become their prey, and the party welfare will become impaired….On the other hand, should our party in this state…chance to succeed under such nefarious newspaper bossism, then must all republicans go, hat in hand, to the editorial room of the newspaper boss, and on bended knee beg the boon of being considered a loyal republican, and pay to the liege lord of the daily morning newspaper his blackmail price for editorial articles when they seek to represent their party in council, or aspire to the American privilege of asking suffrages of their fellow citizens.”
The March 16 editorial declares that the Express “has no more sympathy for the newspaper ‘boss’ than for any other political boss.”
No doubt, in 1900, when Miller was in charge, the newspaper meant those words.
In a few years, however, Edwin T. Earl would be in control of the newspaper, and would dominate a bevy of local office-holders.
This column now appears on Thursdays on a frequent but irregular basis.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company