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The Times was owned by the Otis/Chandler family from its founding in 1881 until 2007. The family-owned Times Mirror Co. merged with the Tribune Co. in 2000, and the family sold its share of the Tribune Co. to billionaire Sam Zell in 2007. The Tribune Co. was working to sell the Times in 2013, and both the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch were reported to be interested in buying the paper, though Murdoch was held back by FCC ownership regulations and the Kochs backed out of the process. The Tribune Co. spun off its newspaper properties, including the Times, into a separate company called Tribune Publishing in 2014.
The Times rose to prominence under the leadership of Otis Chandler from 1960 to 1980. The paper developed a national reach, expanded its international reporting and won numerous prizes for its journalism. The Times’ prestige began to decline during the late 1990s, however, its troubles culminating in an ethical scandal over a profit-sharing agreement with the Staples Center revolving around a special section about the arena’s opening.
In the mid-2000s, the Times was further weakened by several rounds of cuts by the Tribune Co., both before and during Zell’s ownership. During that time, the newspaper lost circulation, made several rounds of cuts, and saw the departure of at least four senior executives over their refusal to implement those cuts. The Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008.
The Times received a $1 million grant in 2012 from the Ford Foundation to expand its coverage of several beats, including immigration, ethnic minority communities, and Brazil.
The Times ended its national edition in 2004, its California section in 2009, and its magazine in 2012. The paper also consolidated its foreign reporting with the Chicago Tribune (another Tribune paper) in 2009, and by late 2009, the Times’ editor said he no longer saw the paper as a competitor of national publications like The New York Times.
The Times combined its print and web operations in 2007, emphasizing the website’s importance with the move. The merger was prompted by a 2006 internal report that found the paper’s web operation slow, understaffed and lacking in leadership. In 2009, Editor Russ Stanton said the Times’ web revenues could cover the cost of the newsroom’s payroll. By 2011, the Times’ web traffic had increased dramatically, largely as a result of efforts in search engine optimization and social media. The paper redesigned its website in 2014, introducing a visual browsing mode, a continually scrolling stream of stories, and pre-written tweets and status updates on article pages.
The Times launched an online paid subscription plan in March 2012, using a metered model that allows 15 free articles per month before charging 99 cents and then $1.99 per week. The paper had experimented with paid content previously, putting its arts and entertainment listings behind a paywall from 2003 to 2005. The Times also released a $1.99 iPhone app in June 2010 and a free iPad version of the LA Times Magazine, LA, in April 2011. The paper reported 177,000 digital subscriptions across its platforms in 2013.
The Times joined the publisher program for the social-news app Zite in July 2012.
In 2005, the Times experimented with a community-edited “wikitorial,” but it was quickly shut down after being besieged by spam and pornography.
MediaBugs is a service that facilitates the discovery and correction of factual errors and other problems in media coverage. MediaBugs is funded by the Knight Foundation by way of the Knight News Challenge, which awarded the project $335,000 in 2009. MediaBugs is directed by Scott Rosenberg, an author and a co-founder of Salon, along with…