Otis Chandler

Editor and Publisher, The Los Angeles Times

1966 Convocation Address

I am deeply grateful to you, Chairman Jette, and to you, President Strider, and to the other members of the selection committee for this 1966 Lovejoy Award. It is also a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to visit your lovely campus and to meet so many of the distinguished faculty of Colby College.

I spent two of the best years of my life in New England as an Andover boy and I hope that my three sons will have the same opportunity as I did to experience the tradition and witness the progress that is New England.

Your recognition, when deserved, can be a great source of strength and encouragement to this generation.

Since it was announced that I was to be the recipient of the Lovejoy Award, I have received a great deal of mail from distinguished journalists and educators in the country, which, to me, is a further indication of the national importance of this award and of the high reputation of your college.

Looking at the list of previous Lovejoy Fellows, I feel most humble to be included in the company of this distinguished list of journalists.

I notice I am the second Lovejoy Fellow from the state of California. You honored Mr. Thomas Storke of the Santa Barbara News-Press in 1962.

He has been a close associate of my family for over fifty years. Prior to his recent retirement from active publishing at the age of 87, he was the oldest publisher in California, if not in the nation.

I also noticed, in reviewing the list of Lovejoy Fellows, that I am the youngest recipient of this award.

I hope this is an indication that in the future the selection committee will again consider the nomination of younger men in our profession because there is, across the land today, a changing of the guard on many of the great newspapers of the country.

A new generation is guiding many of our great papers. Your recognition, when deserved, can be a great source of strength and encouragement to this generation.

The national elections are over, and I say, thank God, because at least to me they have lost much of their meaning and importance. They have become a spectacle and a rather boring one at that.

Mr. Reagan’s election in California was primarily the result of the way his charm and good looks came across to the voters on television.

Television was one of the major contributors to his election.

The effective use of this medium by professionals such as Mr. Reagan is a political fact of life today.

Whether we like it or not, I suspect that we will see more professional actors elected to high office in the future.

Although there is no mob today against which we must defend our presses as Elijah Lovejoy did in Alton, Illinois, in 1837, there are several threats to the press today of serious implication.

One threat, or challenge, is that of the dynamic new technologies in the world today, particularly in the area of electronic communications.

Whether we like it or not, I suspect that we will see more professional actors elected to high office in the future.

Of all the dynamic technological and sociological changes taking place today, none will affect our entire future social order as much as the electronic revolution which began to creep into our lives two decades ago.

It has gained an awesome momentum that makes yesterday’s discoveries obsolete by tomorrow.

The influence of electronic data processing on our culture is already beginning to emerge in specific area.

In the communications industry, we have recently seen examples of what is called the hardware-software lash-up.

Several publishing companies and electronic companies have merged, possibly promising a totally new concept in what has been called, up to now, publishing.

Most opinions on the future of publishing have one common conclusion: the printed word will never cease to exist, in spite of all the changes in technology.

The real enigma of the future is how that word will be transmitted.

One possible oracle of the future is Marshall McLuhan, a University of Toronto professor, whose theories have produced a cult of worshippers.

Even if I were not professionally concerned with his prognosis, it would be difficult to completely dismiss his philosophy as merely an academic dissertation.

McLuhan, in his current book, “Understanding Media,” strongly suggests that our entire culture is changing because of electronic mass communication.

His basic theory is that most of us today, and generations before us, grew up in and are conditioned by print media.

All that has changed, he says, because now, for the first time in history, one entire generation has been nurtured by electronic media.

He maintains that the predecessors of this electronic era, who cut their teeth on print, are literate, visual or eye-oriented people.

But our children, who have been glued to television and transistor radios for years, are completely and emotionally involved with their new medium; they want to participate, to be inside.

Very simply, he says that print contains, while electronics involves.

He suggests that this generation, brought up in this electronic environment, is more ear-oriented and less literate, responding less and less to the printed word.

One of Mr. McLuhan’s predominant theses is that the “medium is the message,” rather than the content of the medium.

His justification for that idea stems, in part, from the effect that each medium since the Stone Age has had on society.

One cannot disagree with the argument that civilization’s transition over a period of several million years from stone to papyrus to parchment to paper to tubes and circuits has affected each succeeding generation’s entire economic and social lives.

Power structures have emerged, changed and died in an unending cycle as one and then another medium became predominant.

McLuhan sees content in any medium as a distraction which affects our conscious minds, while the medium itself puts us under a hypnotic spell that imposes a pattern of thinking of which we are not even aware… the so-called subliminal input.

It is his contention that television, radio, the telephone and computers, as media, make up a new environment that develops the auditory sense and a sense of involvement.

Much of his “probing,” as he calls it, does make a great deal of sense to me. It has a certain logic.

His ideas take on even greater import to me since the Los Angeles Times is situated in the largest television market in the United States, and the second largest radio market.

There are 73 radio stations, nine VHF and three UHF television channels in Los Angeles County, which is only a part of the Los Angeles marketing area.

Most television homes in Los Angeles can receive a total of seventeen stations, and this figure does not include any CATV stations.

Our situation in Los Angeles is obviously unique when one considers the competition a newspaper there has from electronic media alone.

He suggests that this generation, brought up in this electronic environment, is more ear-oriented and less literate, responding less and less to the printed word.

If Professor McLuhan’s theory is correct, that print media will someday become extinct, and that electronics will dominate our entire culture, then possibly Southern California newspapers, particularly the two metropolitan Los Angeles dailies, may be the first in the country to feel the impact of this transition in communications.

The basic point on McLuhan is that any publisher today, in my opinion, would be stupid not to carefully examine his ideas.

His general theory is not happily prophetic for today’s print media, if one agrees with it.

I believe that he has overlooked some basic characteristics of man in developing his theory. He has, in effect, programmed our entire culture into a computer on the theory that our five senses are accountable for all of man’s emotions.

Specifically, I think he has overlooked man’s acquisitiveness.

A book publisher has noted that you cannot sell a book wrapped in cellophane. The buyer wants to feel it, to turn the pages, and then he wants to own it.

I suggest the same theory applies to newspapers. Readers want the intense identification they have with their newspapers.

McLuhan admits that people don’t read newspapers; they get into them every morning like a hot bath!

I do disagree with his concept that the medium itself is all-important, that content is not really the primary product in communications.

In my opinion, content in any medium is the message, is the essence!

The medium is, after all, nothing more than a carrier. Some carriers are more effective and more efficient than others.

I believe so strongly in content that I am convinced that the quality of content will determine the future for all print media, regardless of the form in which that content is ultimately delivered.

One example of the importance of content can be found in book publishing, where 75% of the industry is devoted to textbooks and educational materials.

It is conceivable that electronic data procession, together with the multimedia approach of films, tapes and cartridges, could revolutionize that instructional portion of the industry.

The infinite possibilities for updating classroom materials, for supplying research materials instantly, for storing and retrieving all manner of facts could dramatically change teaching methods.

Electronics, generally, will affect, even more than it does today, our entire communications system.

There is a distinct possibility that the public library could become obsolete as books are made available on a home scanner by dialing on one’s telephone the particular text desired.

A new communications satellite now in orbit over the Pacific will permit live television coverage of the war in Viet Nam by next year.

The Viet Nam conflict is the first major conflict in the world to have been covered by television at all. Shortly, television will bring it into your living room as it is happening.

Even further in the future, you may receive information from electronic impulses projected directly into the mind, perhaps during sleep.

Shortly, television will bring it into your living room as it is happening.

How a book or a magazine or a newspaper will be ultimately transmitted to its user is one of the great question marks in the future of communications.

But there never will be any question that the content of any medium must be supplied by a creative person.

An electronic brain cannot initiate original material.

The commercial success of print media in the future will, therefore, be in direct proportion to the quality and usefulness of the contents therein, rather than how that material is transmitted and displayed.

If content alone will dictate success, or failure, what ingredients must go into that content if newspapers, for example, expect to hold or increase their share of the consumer’s attention in the future?

More and more readers of newspapers are becoming specialist readers who demand specialized writing.

The explosion of knowledge in this decade has made more people informed on more subjects than ever before in history.

Schools, newspapers, television, radio, magazines, books and all other instruments of information have provided today’s consumer with a diversity of subject matter that only serves to give him an insatiable appetite for even more information.

Knowledge in every field from the sciences to the humanities is increasing so rapidly and the audience that is being trained to use this knowledge is multiplying so fast that publishers are hard pressed to meet either demand.

The growth of the audience just on the college level is staggering.

Ten years ago there were 2.7 million students enrolled for degree credits in colleges. Last year, there were 5.8 million students.

By 1975, total college enrollment is forecast to be around 9 million — some experts predict as high as 9.5 million.

These figures mean that by 1975 over 50% of all those between 18 and 21 years of age will be working for college degrees.

This does not include part-time students who are not seeking degrees.

This suggests that all media face a vastly expanded audience of college- educated young men and women in the next nine years and an even more expanded audience of this calibre in the years beyond 1975.

This audience will also be more affluent than today’s and will have more leisure time in which to pursue intellectual and casual pursuits.

We also face an audience of the immediate future that will be much more sophisticated than is our present audience.

More and more readers of newspapers are becoming specialist readers who demand specialized writing.

I believe, again contrary to Mr. McLuhan’s theories, that these college-trained readers will continue to be conditioned to the printed word–although not exclusively, nor possibly even predominantly, but I suggest they will demand a vastly superior product as far as content than is generally available now.

Although the medium itself will be important, it will be the value the quality of that word that will ultimately determine whether or not the reader will buy our product and use it.

Newspapers, then, must put a totality of emphasis on achieving a higher and higher quality content.

We faced this fact several years ago on the Los Angeles Times.

Today we concentrate on being a daily encyclopaedic center of learning, not only to satisfy those relatively few sophisticated present readers in our area, who will not settle for less, but even more important to our future growth, we are preparing for the predictable arrival of this new electronic-oriented generation into the media consumer market of Los Angeles.

Despite my constant reiteration that the form in which the printed word is transmitted is secondary to the quality of the word, I have given a great deal of thought to the whole subject of how electronics could affect the physical form that the newspaper of the future might adopt.

At The Times, we are in a constant atmosphere of research and development on this subject. We investigate and analyze the endless possibilities of a newspaper in a totally new and different form.

We take the position that almost every major revolution in communications in the past seemed, at the time, improbable, even immediately prior to its general acceptance and application.

We listen to incredible ideas on facsimile, microfilm and other “instant” newspapers of the future, always bearing in mind that Gutenberg’s great marvel, the printing press, could one day be as obsolete in the wake of electronics as the quill pen became with the development of movable type.

Someday there will be a breakthrough in newspaper production and delivery that could make the newspaper as we know it today somewhat obsolete.

Even today, there are many possible forms in which your morning or evening daily newspaper might be electronically transmitted to you, although it would not look the same, or have the same bulk or feel as it presently does.

However, no present electronic process has sufficient economic merit to outweigh the advantages of a newspaper in its present form. But I would not be surprised to see some major developments in this area within the next five years.

I doubt that a large Sunday metropolitan newspaper will ever be delivered electronically directly into your living room. Can you imagine five hundred pages each Sunday spilling out on the living room rug?

I suggest the Sunday newspaper is a different breed from the daily — it is an institution that may well survive in its present form for a long time.

How are newspapers doing today against the chief product of our electronic age: television?

Television certainly has values that newspapers cannot match.

It has the advantage of allowing the viewer an experience that is not vicarious, but first-hand.

Time Magazine labels television as the most intimate medium.

It is the transmission of experience in its rawest form, whereas newspapers try to transmit facts.

For example, when you watch the actual lift-off of a space capsule or the Pope addressing the United Nations, you are listening to and seeing and participating in an original experience with which you can identify.

Television certainly has values that newspapers cannot match.

Television has the advantage of the camera-on-the-spot. When it shows, for instance, the launch of a Gemini capsule, it has a high credibility or believability factor. What one sees and hears, one usually believes.

Conversely, when television does not use the camera to record an experience first-hand is often when television is most shallow. It seldom does as good a job in telling a story as do newspapers.

Another advantage of television is the ease with which it can display its best talent.

Television began solely as an entertainment medium and it has used the star system of the entertainment world to enhance its comparatively recent entry into news broadcasting.

Everyone who watches the constantly expanded evening network television news coverage has his favorite personality.

Everyone recognizes Mr. Huntley or Mr. Brinkley or Mr. Cronkite. They have become known as “personalities” and their audience, over a period of time, comes to feel they personally know them.

A rapport develops between this “news personality” and individuals in his audience; a relationship of confidence and believability by the viewers toward their newscaster.

Time Magazine says Walter Cronkite is the single most convincing and authoritative figure in television news. His audience believes what he says because of his authoritative presentation, despite some lingering aspects of show business.

The result is that Cronkite has become one of the most influential molders of public opinion, though he is quoted as being convinced that television newscasting can never replace printed news.

He says that television newscasters do such a slick job that they have deluded the public into thinking that they get all they need to know from a TV newscaster. He further maintains that the people need a flow of bulk information which he says TV cannot give them.

Improvement in color TV is an additional challenge to newspapers.

Television is also still primarily an entertainment medium, and human nature being what it is this is an advantage for television, as opposed to newspapers which require that the reader exert an effort.

Television is a very easy, relaxed way to skim the news, see sports as they are played and enjoy Jackie Gleason. It creates a pleasant escape for anyone who has the energy to push a button.

In addition to competing with print media in telling the news of the day, television’s entertainment programs take reading time away from all print media, particularly general circulation magazines, and books, to a certain extent.

But television has many disadvantages and chief among them may be its lack of depth and flexibility.

Television gives you the Dow Jones averages, but it will not allow you to study the stock tables. It will give you a sprinkling of local news, but not the complete details of today’s city council meeting or of an important court case.

Television gives you the Dow Jones averages, but it will not allow you to study the stock tables.

On the other hand, the flexibility factor of a newspaper has long been one of its chief assets when compared to radio or television. Newspapers have always had the advantage of having a product that can be taken apart, section by section, and passed around the breakfast table.

The gap between this flexibility and television’s lack of flexibility has been one of newspapers’ chief attributes.

That gap is now closing somewhat, unfortunately for newspapers, because of two developments.

One is the invention of a video tape recorder which can store any television program. Working on the principal of a conventional tape recorder, this device enables the owner to view any program at his convenience.

Second, television will eventually present, through CATV systems across the country, all-news, all-sports, all-weather, all-financial and even all-classified -advertising channels, each one devoted exclusively to these subject areas on a 24-hour basis.

Newspapers’ flexibility would be diminished considerably, too, if newspapers eventually were forced by costs and competition to adopt an electronic for mat, such as microfilm or facsimile delivered into the home.

If someday your newspaper is transmitted and stored automatically in your home computer, you could later recall it electronically — page by page, or article by article — for viewing on a special screen, or you could call for a facsimile print-out, as desired.

This instant newspaper concept is certainly possible and indeed probable.

My own feeling is that newspapers will still be here twenty years from now.

They may not be as large in size as today’s.

They certainly will be produced differently.

They may be distributed differently.

Some will have very large circulations and most will be very profitable. They may look quite different, editorially; and they may not be printed on newsprint.

There will be fewer metropolitan papers than there are today. The metropolitan papers of the future will not dominate their markets as they have in the past, but will probably continue to be the single most important voice in their own communities.

Suburban and small city newspapers will continue to grow, although even they will face severe competition from television, particularly from a vast CATV system that will soon blanket rural as well as urban areas of our country.

My own feeling is that newspapers will still be here twenty years from now.

The metropolitan newspapers that will serve the great population centers twenty years from now may be produced by several area production facilities.

In addition, the news gathering facilities of these papers will produce various types of information for libraries, schools, businesses and for the home for television viewing and for facsimile print-outs for those who desire it.

This concept envisions that newspapers will play a dual role: they will publish and distribute a newspaper and they will also distribute information electronically.

In summary, the electronic revolution has affected newspapers tremendously in the past two decades, providing competition that has forced us to research and restructure our product.

Electronics may well supply the technological breakthrough that I mentioned earlier, which could change the present concept of a newspaper entirely.

It has already given us increased productivity in the form of computerized typesetting, billing and other data processing.

It has convinced some of us that newspapers will only survive so long as they are willing to meet and master the challenges of electronic communications.

The future will bring remarkable innovations in new technology.

We will be challenged more and more by electronic media, and we will make greater use of electronic technology ourselves.

But I am not personally fatalistic about the future of the printed word.

I cannot subscribe totally to Mr. McLuhan’s theory on electronics versus print.

I have previously described to you the most competitive electronic media market in the United States … and yet the Los Angeles Times is today moving forward at a record-setting pace in all areas of economic success.

Neither television, nor any other electronic device, in my opinion, will deprive good newspapers or good magazines or good books, for that matter, of an expanding audience adequate in size to assure an important place in the American culture.

Thank you…

Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award

About the Lovejoy Award

Colby College remembers alumnus Elijah Parish Lovejoy through the annual Lovejoy Award, which honors journalists who demonstrate courage, integrity, and craftsmanship.

Born in Albion, Maine, Lovejoy graduated from Colby in 1826. On Nov. 7, 1837, in Alton, Ill., the newspaper editor and publisher was killed after he refused to stop publishing anti-slavery editorials. He was called America’s first martyr to freedom of the press by John Quincy Adams.

Current Lovejoy Selection Committee Members include Matt Apuzzo ’00, reporter and investigative correspondent, New York Times; Nancy Barnes, senior vice president and editorial director, NPR; Sewell Chan, editorial page editor, Los Angeles Times; Marcela Gaviria, producer, PBS FRONTLINE; Neil Gross, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College; Martin Kaiser, former editor and senior vice president Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Mindy Marqués, vice president and executive editor, Simon and Schuster, former editor, Miami Herald; and Ron Nixon, global investigations editor, Associated Press.

For more information, visit colby.edu/lovejoy