Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 28, 2010


Page 15



Daily Journal Gains Ally: Los Angeles Times




Alonzo E. Davis and Robert E. Wirsching were among three Los Angeles County supervisors seeking reelection in 1900. Both had voted to award a county legal advertising contract to the Los Angeles Daily Journal while the third supervisor who was going for another term, James Hanley, had wanted to reject all bids and start anew.

The Los Angeles Express, under management of its president, attorney John M. Miller, was irate that its bid, though higher than that of the Journal, was spurned, taking the stance that the Journal was a trade publication and shouldn’t be viewed as a real newspaper. Its editorial assaults on the board were caustic, possibly libelous.

Davis and Wirsching made a joint statement in response, quoted in a Los Angeles Times editorial on Sunday, Sept. 16.

They probably erred in denominating the Express “the highest bidder.” Although it bid 25 cents per square inch, compared with the 20-cent bids by the Herald and the Record, it offered to publish notices on subsequent runs for 16 cents per square inch. Most notices were run multiple times, and a notice published three times or more would have cost less in the Express.

It could not be challenged that the Daily Journal, which was willing to publish county notices for 15 cents per square inch, was the low bidder. The statement by the fuming supervisors says:

 “In letting the contract to the Journal, a savings has been effected to the county of $2500 a year—and yet the Express charges the Supervisors with ‘contemptible jobbery [corruption]!’ We leave it to the public to decide whether it smacks of jobbery to award a contract to a non-political paper at a price 25 per cent. lower than any other bidder.”

The Times editorial presents this view:

“Fair-minded people can come to but one conclusion, if the contract was to be awarded without regard to the largest circulation [which the Times had], and that is, that the Supervisors did the right thing. What claim the Express had on the contract is not visible to the naked eye.”

Now the Express was really upset with Davis and Wirsching. It called upon the Republican Party not to renominate them at its county convention, saying on Sept. 18 in a Page One article (in the nature of an editorial but in the format of a lead news story):

“Upon their showing on the matter of the award of the county printing alone, the Express maintains that Messrs. Davis and Wirsching should not again be entrusted with the conduct of the county’s business. And there are other reasons.

“Messrs. Davis and Wirsching owe their political being to Southern Pacific [Railroad] influences.

“They have unduly favored the liquor interests.

“They should not be nominated.

“If nominated they should be defeated.”

Two reasons were cited in the editorial for the supervisors’ decision to “punish” the Express by not granting it the contract: that the Express was not deferential to Southern Pacific and that it was “too friendly” with the Times. If rapport with the Times did exist, it did not survive the Express’ Sept. 18 editorial which asserts that the Sunday Times piece was “bought and paid for” by the two supervisors.

The unsubstantiated charge that a rival newspaper had been paid to express particular views in an editorial was rash. That the Express would have leveled such an accusation casts doubt on the legal competence, and sense of fairness, of the newspaper’s chief, Miller.

“We repudiate the charge,” a Sept. 19 editorial in the Times bristles. It proclaims:

“The Evening Express has a personal quarrel on with Supervisors Davis and Wirsching because it was refused an advertising contract by the Board of Supervisors. The contention does not concern The Times, for The Times was not in the bidding; and it does not greatly concern the public, we suspect. We take notice of the ruction [rukus] only because the Express, in its blind fury and unreasonable rage at the two Supervisors, asserts that they ‘bought and paid for’ a statement of their side of the contention, ‘published on the editorial page of The Times.’ This is untrue, and the Express has and had no warrant for its assertion. Neither the officers named nor any person for them, nor any other person whatever ‘bought and paid for,’ or agreed to pay for, directly or indirectly, any statement in The Times touching the matter in dispute. The publication complained of by the aroused and excited Express was inserted pro bono publico, and for the sake of giving Messrs. Davis and Wirsching an opportunity to defend themselves against the more or less intemperate assaults of their journalistic critic....”

That same day, a Daily Journal editorial (the newspaper, back then, was not too timid to take stances in editorials) shot back at the Express. More about that next time.


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