I didn’t know that the Chandler dynasty is the subject of a PBS documentary now in production by Emmy Award–winning producer Peter Jones. It’s called Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times and based on Privileged Son, ex-L.A. journalist Dennis McDougal’s 2001 biography of Otis Chandler (photo left). Few people on earth know more about the history of the Los Angeles Times and Times Mirror than Dennis, which is why I suggested he write a wrap-up of the Chandler family’s impact on journalism, good and bad after I got wind of the news of the Chandler family’s final sell-off of Tribune Co stock. The LA Weekly article, “The Chandlers’ Last Gasp”, is a good read. But back to the documentary. Inventing L.A. is near completion, according to Jones. “We’ve got about 90 percent of our interviews in the can,” he told McDougal. According to the article, “The documentary contains new interviews with Times figures like crusty editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad, former Times publisher and CNN news chief Tom Johnson, and dozens of the Chandlers. In addition, Jones and his co-producers spent two years scouring libraries, courthouses, universities and private collections — where they rediscovered miles of archival film, tape, audio and video tracing the interlocking stories of L.A. and its Times. At the University of South Carolina, of all places, Tessier found original footage of the construction of the Hollywood sign — one of dozens of L.A. landmarks in which Harry Chandler had a financial interest. But time and ultimately death also presented a challenge to the makers of Inventing L.A.: Jones was too late to interview Otis, for example, as well as David Halberstam, the recently deceased author of The Powers That Be, the 1979 classic study of the Chandlers and three other media families. ‘No single family has dominated any major region of the country as the Chandlers have dominated California,’ Halberstam wrote. ‘It would take a combination of the Rockefellers and the Sulzbergers to match their power and influence.’ He could not have known that so vast a sphere of influence would dissipate to nothing by 2007.”
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