Otis Chandler took a newspaper that had generated almost as much ridicule as revenue and turned it into one of the nation's best. (Los Angeles Times / October 15, 2014)

Chandler was both more willing than most publishers to reinvest the paper's rising profits in editorial improvements and more visionary in his approach to newspapering. He foresaw the sprawling megalopolis that Los Angeles and its neighboring counties would become, and he wanted The Times to be the dominant paper "from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border."

He started the Orange County edition to serve the burgeoning population there -- the first such satellite plant for any metropolitan daily in the country.

Concerned by the growing competition from television, Chandler urged his editors to transform the paper into a regional daily newsmagazine that placed a high premium on analysis, interpretation and good writing -- not just covering the day's events but putting them in context and doing so in a lively and compelling fashion.

Ever concerned with the paper's image and visibility nationally, he teamed with Philip Graham, then publisher of the Washington Post, to create the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service to distribute the paper's stories to client papers.

Unencumbered by union contracts, Chandler made major technological improvements at The Times, shifting from traditional "hot type" letterpress production to more flexible photo-composition and offset printing and making The Times the first major newspaper in the United States to computerize typesetting.

At the same time, he shifted the paper's editorial page philosophy from the extreme right to slightly left of center. His goal, he once quipped, was to make it a "militant middle-of-the-road paper."

He moved gradually at first, then much more quickly, especially after hiring Day, who joined the paper as chief editorial writer in 1969 and later became editor of the editorial pages.

"Otis said he wanted a more assertive, more liberal editorial page," Day said. "He wanted the paper to take what he called more 'balls out' positions, and he wanted us to change our position and editorialize against the war in Vietnam."

Although Chandler had been opposed to Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race, he had deferred to his father and reluctantly agreed to run an editorial before the Republican convention pledging The Times' traditional support to whomever the party chose as its nominee -- and that turned out to be Goldwater.

But in 1968, the paper endorsed Democrat Alan Cranston for U.S. Senate over Republican Max Rafferty, whom it called "an outspoken, militant conservative."

Although The Times had, on rare occasion, endorsed conservative Democrats for state legislative and U.S. House seats, the backing of a Democrat for such a high office "was a momentous decision," Chandler said in the 2005 interview.

The increasingly liberal stand on most major issues angered many in the Chandler family. Until shortly before his death in 1973, Chandler's father had helped insulate him from those protests. But Otis had certainly been aware of the family pressure.

"They didn't like the L.A. Times," he said in the 2005 interview. "They resented my position at the L.A. Times and felt there were a lot of things I could have done differently."

The shift on the editorial page came as the region itself, once dependably Republican, was becoming less conservative.

"The region was changing, the demographic was changing, the type of paper was changing," he said. "There were so many changes going on, and I think if we hadn't kept up with the flow, The Times wouldn't have continued to do well financially.... I'm glad we did what we did."

Chandler's primary role was to provide the impetus, framework and financial support for change, rather than dictating specifics. But he did send memos to Williams, the editor, periodically in his early years as publisher -- criticizing the business and sports sections, for example, and complaining about the content and design of the Sunday magazine, then as now called West.

Williams was 21 years older than Chandler and often pulled in his reins. Chandler later praised his editor for frequently "reminding a young publisher that you can't change a whole paper overnight."

By the time Thomas became editor in 1971, many of the major changes had been made, resistance had greatly diminished and Chandler was stepping back to take a broader view.

"My style was to do the job and push the boundaries, and once Otis realized I knew what I was doing, he let me do it," Thomas said. That was Chandler's style as a boss, he said: Pick the right people and stay out of their way.

Thomas was largely responsible for the great length and literary style of many Times stories -- qualities for which the paper became both celebrated and criticized. Even Chandler said some of those long stories made the paper seem "gray, somewhat dull" at times.