Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 4, 2010


Page 15



Supervisors Who Bucked Express Are Denied GOP Renominations




The contest in 1900 for the Republican nomination for two spots on the Board of Supervisors was as much between two daily newspapers—the Los Angeles Evening Express and the Los Angeles Times—as it was the incumbents and their respective challengers.

The Express, as recounted here last week, on Sept. 18 called for the GOP, at its county convention, to desist from renominating Supervisors Alonzo E. Davis and Robert E. Wirsching. The duo had provoked the Express not only by voting to award a county legal advertising contract to the low bidder, the Los Angeles Daily Journal—which the Express insisted did not amount to a newspaper in the legal sense—but daring to rationalize their action in a statement, quoted by the Times the previous day in an editorial in support of the Journal.

A Sept. 19 editorial in the Los Angeles Daily Journal tears apart the argument by the Express that the Journal was not suited to carry legal advertisements, and throws the spotlight on the current subject of this series, attorney John M. Miller, president of the Express.

The editorial declares that “Judge Miller…made a very weak argument” before the Board of Supervisors prior to that body making its award “to show that the Journal was not a newspaper,” continuing:

“He quoted Judge [J. S.] Noyes of Riverside, who recently decided that a purely religious weekly paper was not a newspaper, to prove that the Los Angeles Daily Journal was therefore not a newspaper. He admitted that he was a regular subscriber and reader of the Journal every morning, and that he gave all his advertising, which must be published in a newspaper, to the Journal. The Supervisors, evidently on the Judge’s statement, awarded the contract to the Journal on the spot.”

(Miller, as I’ve noted, was often referred to as “Judge Miller” though he had never been a judge. It was a “courtesy title.”)

The Journal laces into the Express for its statement that the previous year, the supervisors dismissed the Journal’s bid out of hand, notwithstanding that it was lowest, because they realized it wasn’t a newspaper. It labels that a “lie” because the Journal had not bid on county advertising the previous year, or ever before.

The editorial accuses the Express of being “a little, narrow, conceited paper,” and proclaims:

“Newspaper arrogance should be rebuked.”

Later that day, delegates to the convention turned down the renomination bids of Davis and Wirsching. The next morning’s Times observes that the defeat of these “experienced members of the board” was “due to a combination of opposing influences, not to any single cause.”

The article does not make note that one of the “influences” was opposition to the candidates by the Express.

The Republican nominees won election in their respective districts (second and fourth) in the general election.

The Feb. 1, 1901, issue of the Times contains an Associated Press dispatch from the District of Columbia which reports a statement by Times Publisher Harrison Gray Otis. In it, Otis denies a report in the Los Angeles Herald that he had sought the post of federal pension commissioner.

The statement includes this:

“The Los Angeles Express of yesterday repeated the fake story, and deliberately refused, or at least totally failed, to publish the denial of Gen. Otis as communicated to that newspaper, earlier in the day, through the person of the president of the Express Company, Mr. John M. Miller.”

Otis terms the publications by rival newspapers “very contemptible business.”

The following month, Miller called it quits as a publisher.

The March 7 edition of the Express contains an announcement that ownership had changed.

An article in the Times on March 9, 1901, puts it in perspective:

 “Mr. Miller undertook to ‘direct the policy’ of the paper and practice law at the same time. Mr. [William A.] Kelsey [a Meriden, Conn. newspaper executive] was nominally, general manager. The combination seems not to have worked. The ‘policy’ of the paper, if ‘directed,’ did not stay directed.”

Internal dissension caused William F. Botsford, a banker, to sell his two-fifths interest, the buyer being Edwin T. Earl, who had recently sold his fruit-shipping business,.

The recital in the Times goes on to say:

“Disagreements continued, and the next man to weary in well doing was John M. Miller, the other ’prentice hand and erstwhile great directing editorial mind of the paper. He chafed under the restraints placed upon him by his coöwners, who wanted to edit some, too; and it was a suppressed contest between him and Editor Kelsey as to who was to dominate the management.”

Miller sold his two-fifths interest to Earl, who thus gained control of the newspaper…and went on to gain control of several local politicians.


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