LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, which published its last edition a year ago, retains an ember of life as five employees continue to toil away in the landmark Spanish Colonial-style building downtown.
'It's pretty spooky around here sometimes,' said Grace Gonzalez, the paper's personnel director. 'This is a big building and it's really quiet some days.'
Besides Gonzalez, bookkeeper Sylvia Rodriguez, production director Ray Willis, a security guard and a cleaning lady are the only ones left of the 830 people on the newspaper's payroll when the last edition rolled off the presses the night of Nov. 1, 1989.
'People ask me what in the world I do all day, but I'm pretty busy,' Gonzalez said. She works mostly on employee benefits, such as insurance, and expects to keep working until early next year.
'I haven't started looking for a new job,' she said. 'I miss the paper and the people very much.'
The Herald is remembered as a flashy, scrappy paper that folded because of its inability to compete for readers and advertising dollars with the Los Angeles Times, currently the nation's largest metropolitan daily. The Herald never recovered from a crippling strike that lasted from 1967 to 1977.
When it closed, the Herald had a circulation of about 230,000, less than half of what it had been before the marathon strike and less than a quarter of that of the Times.
The paper had been founded in 1903 as the Los Angeles Examiner by flamboyant press lord William Randolph Hearst, who built a coast-to- coast empire of papers which appealed to a mass readership with colorful, frequently sensationalistic headlines and reporting and a bluntly bellicose, 'yellow journalism'-type editorial policy. Hearst ran the paper during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, even maintaining an apartment right in the Examinerbuilding.
In 1962, nearly a dozen years after Hearst's death, his successors at Hearst Corp. merged the morning Examiner with the afternoon Herald- Express to form the Herald-Examiner. The merged paper came out as an afternoon daily, leaving the morning to the rival Times, which had in the meantime folded its own afternoon paper, the Mirror.
The Herald-Examiner prospered for a time in the afternoon, reaching a circulation high of about 700,000 before the strike in 1967. It was then the largest-circulation afternoon paper in the United States, but saw its sales dwindle in the wake of the long-running strike; at the same time, changing trends within the newspaper industry saw the demise of once-powerful afternoon papers in a number of cities.
Hearst Corp. switched the paper back to a morning publication in 1982, but it was never able to compete effectively for newsstand and subscription dollars against the Times.
New York-based Hearst, which runs a publishing empire that includes a dozen daily newspapers, seven radio stations and 11 monthly magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Popular Mechanics, decided after two decades of red ink to pull the plug on the Herald.
'The Herald was a troubled property for 20 years,' said Lee Guittar, vice president of Hearst's newspaper division. 'It's not as if we decided to do this on a whim.'NEWLN: more