JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR…December 7, 1941. That was the headline splashed across the front page of the Fresno Bee lying on the floor nearby. I was eight years old and I remember the event, not so much for the story but for the effect it had on the adults around me. They were talking in hushed tones and I heard fragments, “We’ll have to keep the shades drawn…we’re on the West Coast, they can get to us easy…what about Koboyashi on the farm across the road?” I was scared and curious at the same time.

That day was the first thing I recollect about newspapers. Its impact lingered but wasn’t nearly as pronounced as other things in my life at the time. My father had died recently, I underwent surgery on my eyes, and I didn’t get to start grammar school due to the operations. I had to do a lot of work on the farm because we were very poor while other kids my age seemed to have more free time to play. Taunts for being chubby and wearing glasses—I was called “four-eyes” and being described as a “dirty, black Armenian” also stick in my memory of the early war years.

There were other things as well, but they didn’t seem to matter much to me at the time. Mr. Koboyashi and other Japanese farmers in the area seemingly vanished overnight, rationing started for items like butter and gasoline, and a trench was dug at my rural Ross Grammar School for practice air raid drills. My larger concerns were the 100 degree summer heat, winter’s dense tule fogs, and black widow spiders in the vines when I picked grapes.

Up through the high school years, I really didn’t pay much attention to the Bee, except for an occasional look at the sports pages to check on college football scores and, of utmost importance, Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees. I don’t think anyone in my rural area had television and, even if it was available, my family couldn’t have afforded one. I didn’t even know what TV was until I got to college, when I discovered the magnificent CBS anchor, Walter Cronkite. I think he would have been equally as good as a newspaperman.

I left the San Joaquin Valley in 1951 to enroll in UC Berkeley as a 17-year-old college freshman. Early on, I became a devoted reader of the San Francisco Chronicle. I didn’t have the wherewithal for a subscription, but it was readily available in libraries neatly attached to those wooden rods, so-called “newspaper sticks.”

As before, my first choice was the sports section, which was called the “Sporting Green” because its pages, of course, were green. Then there was the “Date Book,” the entertainment section with all pink pages that covered things like movies and theater. Pretty gaudy. Above all, there was Herb Caen, the writer who for many years spun tales about San Francisco, his “Baghdad by the Bay,” in his daily column. He was colorful, irreverent and exuberant, and I went there first after the sports section. After a while, I just went there first.

There were other newspapers published in the Bay Area, but they just weren’t the Chronicle and lacked its quirky appeal and character. As a Cal student, I had access to the Berkeley Daily Gazette and Daily Californian, aka Daily Cal, the student-run newspaper. I was in the early stages of young adult idealism, however, and had little interest in the Gazette’s coverage of neighborhood happenings and Daily Cal’s coverage of fraternities and clubs. The Daily Cal later became more colorful and controversial, eventually breaking with the university over an editorial exhorting students to take back People’s Park. It developed an independent board but still maintains loose ties to UC Berkeley. The Gazette folded in the late 1970s, surprising almost no one familiar with it.

Then there was the Oakland Tribune, a newspaper so staid and conservative under publisher William Knowland that it seemed the epitome of the big yawn. Hearst’s San Francico Examiner competed with the Chronicle for my attention and lost. I just didn’t like its look and feel. It seemed that it was the most buttoned-down businessmen commuting with me on the F-Train to San Francisco who read the Examiner.

I graduated in 1955 and had jobs in San Francisco and the East Bay while working on an MBA degree at Cal. Four years later, I got an offer of employment with a research and development organization in Santa Monica. I cried over the prospect of relocating from my beloved San Francisco Bay Area, but it turned out to be the best job I ever had. Plus I met my wife there. I might have been fired in today’s world since she had worked for me. We’ve been married 56 years and counting.

Santa Monica reminded me of Berkeley in some ways and, at the time, was a city in transition politically. Its newspaper was the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, which was distributed in the afternoons…don’t recall a Sunday edition. Well, the last thing I wanted was reading news about Santa Monica after a day at work. Santa Monica is a beautiful community on the edge of the Pacific, but when I first arrived there, I found it pretty provincial compared to San Francisco. That said, I did rent a nice apartment not far from the beach for a while before buying a home in Pacific Palisades.

A few months after my relocation to Southern California, I decided to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, and, except for a year with an ill-fated bank job up in San Francisco, I remained on its subscription roll continuously for over half a century. For many years, I had a love affair with that paper, even if it did seem a little presumptuous for it to identify as “The Times.” I often wondered what The New York Times or The Times of London thought about that. Still, it soon became apparent to me that the LA Times was a heavyweight compared to my beloved San Francisco Chronicle. More sterile, yes, but much more comprehensive and with superior in-depth coverage and greater national and international scope.

I was struck by the Chandler family, which owned the Times. The matriarch, Dorothy Chandler, “Buffy,” was a huge force in the cultural and philanthropic world of Los Angeles and, among her other accomplishments, was instrumental in getting the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion built for the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. It was followed by the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, and Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Together they became the Los Angeles Performing Arts Center, one of the largest in America. Dorothy Chandler could legitimately claim to be the major driving force behind the conversion of Los Angeles to a highly respected arts and culture city.

However, it was her son, Otis Chandler, who really caught my attention. He was a few years older than me, but I knew of him from his athletic prowess as a champion shot putter for the Stanford Indians (now Stanford Cardinal), the collegiate rival to my Cal Bears across the bay. He was an imposing figure, tall and handsome with blonde hair and rugged features. He also gave the appearance of being very preppy, leading some people to predict that he would just lead an idle, privileged life after college. They were very wrong.

After a stint in the Air Force, marriage and his first child, Otis started work for the Times. Norman Chandler, his father and publisher of the newspaper, wanted to ensure that he was schooled in all aspects of the business and had him undergo a seven-year training program, starting with a press room apprenticeship on the graveyard shift.

Otis eventually succeeded his father as Times publisher in 1960 and immediately started to make his mark. He increased the paper’s news bureaus from just two offices to 34, and circulation doubled on his watch. The Times garnered nine Pulitzer Prizes while he was the publisher. He recruited the best journalists to the Times and, before it was fashionable in corporate circles, increased staff diversity. I believe he may have had a hand in getting my old boss at UCLA, Dr. Franklin Murphy, to leave his chancellor’s post to become chairman and CEO of the Times-Mirror Company (owner of the Times). David Halberstam, the prominent award-winning journalist, said no publisher in America improved a paper so quickly and on such a grand scale as Otis Chandler.

The Times was steeped in talent and I looked forward to its delivery every morning. It had a wonderful sports section highlighted by columnist Jim Murray’s caustic wit. Ken Turan was the film critic. I enjoyed and respected him but also disagreed with his reviews from time to time. Sometimes he seemed too cerebral. I liked Doyle McManus, the Washington bureau chief and jack of all trades for the paper…solid journalist. Paul Conrad was the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist. I didn’t much gravitate to his stuff (or to political cartoonists in general). I spent hours reading the Sunday edition. It felt almost book-length, though a lot of that was the throwaway ads and the huge classified section.

I’m a creature of habit and the Times became a good part of my routine. Every morning before work, I would pick it up from the driveway and spend an hour or so reading it. Two hours or more on Sunday. My commute from my home in Pacific Palisades to UCLA (where I was both a doctoral candidate and, later, assistant chancellor) was only about 20 minutes, so I could linger over it a bit more than an hour. When I moved to Orange County, my commuting time was a tad longer so my reading time was correspondingly less.

I moved down to Laguna Beach in 1981 to take an executive post in the health care field, but the Times (Orange County edition) continued to be my constant companion. As we approached the new millennium, however, I noticed that my enthusiasm and interest in the newspaper had started to wane. I was in a state of denial for a long time, attributing the change to turnover in journalists. Or maybe it was that the Times had slimmed down and didn’t seem to have the coverage it used to have. I also started noticing typos, whereas the paper had seemed nearly error-free before.

But I finally confronted the realization that my wonderful Times had changed. Or was it me? No, my entire life I’ve embraced liberal values such as individual liberty and freedom of speech and association…that’s a constant. To his credit, Otis Chandler had moved the Times in that direction and away from its past as a conservative, anti-union organ. But after he retired, a new wave of editors and journalists pushed the Times on a front that seemed to betray journalistic values. It became too ideological and biased for me, sometimes too woke in today’s parlance, not only in the editorial pages but also in its reporting of news. I felt the Times had lost sight of its core journalistic principles and mission as part of its effort—and this is a personal surmise—to become the West Coast version of the Washington Post or New York Times.

I was conflicted and struggled for several years to reconcile myself to the changes that had been evolving in my view of the Times. Now, instead of relishing my mornings with the paper, I found myself gritting my teeth after reading this editorial or that news report. It were as though I was struggling with an inevitable marital breakup after decades with a spouse. It really was. Remember, at this point I had subscribed to the paper for nearly 50 years.

Part of the problem also was the lack of decent alternatives. The only other major newspaper in the area was the Orange County Register, which to me was in the mold of the Berkeley Gazette, Santa Monica Outlook, and San Francisco Examiner. (Full disclosure: for a while, I wrote a column for the Register.) Laguna Beach had the Independent, a weekly local paper with news of this interesting artsy community by the sea, but obviously it was not national in scope.

For a few years as I approached retirement, I had a part-time adjunct faculty gig teaching graduate seminars on management theory and organizational behavior down at Cal State University-San Diego. I would look now and then at the San Diego Union (currently the Union-Tribune) and briefly—very briefly—thought about subscribing, and then quickly gave up the idea. It had garnered a couple of Pulitzers, but its news base was San Diego and it didn’t have the extended national and international coverage I wanted. And there wasn’t an emotional connection for me. It was the San Francisco Examiner redux.

Then I found the Wall Street Journal. Where had WSJ been all my life? I had previously thought it was just a smorgasbord of boring business news and stock market reports. Yes, one section, “Exchange,” focuses on business and finance—quite well, I might add—but the rest of WSJ has turned out to be a multifaceted journalistic feast.

From my viewpoint, its editorials are balanced and common sense, and they have several sophisticated and bright political columnists who seem to follow in the intellectual tradition of William F. Buckley. The letters to the editor are uniformly thoughtful, intelligent and well-documented in support of their positions. My main disagreement with WSJ is its support for global capitalism which, in my view, has disadvantaged the American workforce. That said, the journalism is comprehensive and first-rate, with ideological opinion or bias rarely sneaking into the news reports.

Joe Morgenstern until this year was WSJ’s film critic par excellence. Lettie Teague in the “Off Duty” section is a fine wine writer, though I’m sometimes offended by her not paying enough attention to California wines. And there is a sports page, admittedly not comprehensive but not half bad considering it consists mostly of analyses and topical reports. Car buffs can find excellent reviews on the newest and best vehicles, especially sports cars. “Mansions” is a weekly section with stories about ultra-expensive homes for sale, often in exotic places, inhabited by billionaires/gazillionaires with high name-recognition. But it also covers more modest home sales; I’ve noticed occasional Laguna Beach listings, for example, over the years. There are also articles on fashion, home décor, the future of everything and more.

In truth, WSJ covers everything the Times did but without the local component, which I get from an occasional reading of the Independent. To me, it’s as good or better than the Times newspaper that I left.

Regrettably, WSJ doesn’t publish on national holidays, unlike other major papers, and only has a weekend edition rather than a Sunday paper. The latter arrives Saturday morning and occupies a fair amount of my time over the weekend. I think the “Review” section, with its essays, book reviews and special reports, is consistently first rate. I don’t do puzzles, but I’m told its crossword puzzles can challenge those of the New York Times. It’s expensive but worth it, and there are usually promotional rates that can soften the financial blow.

I hope and expect WSJ to be the final newspaper for me in my life’s journey. I’ve become attached to it and couldn’t handle another newspaper divorce.