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Black Dahlia Revisited

September 24, 2009 | 10:00 am


Jan. 16, 1947, Examiner Cover

I need to make a few points about the coverage of the Black Dahlia case before I move on. The killing and the subsequent investigation are incredibly complicated and the false claims, ridiculous "true crime" books and crackpot websites have only muddied the waters even further. So I'll keep this brief.

The Los Angeles Examiner was Hearst's morning competition to the Los Angeles Times. Hearst's afternoon paper was the Herald-Express, created in the early 1930s in the merger of the Herald and the Express. There was also the Daily News (not related to the current Daily News of Los Angeles), which was founded in the 1920s. 

After World War II, The Times acquired the Daily News and incorporated it into the Mirror, which became the Mirror-News, an afternoon paper competing with the Herald-Express. The Mirror (where I got the name for the blog) was intended to be a more sensational counterpart to the staid, traditional Los Angeles Times.

In 1962, The Times folded the Mirror-News and Hearst folded the Examiner, leaving The Times as Los Angeles' sole morning paper and the new Herald Examiner as the sole evening paper. (Of course the region had many other suburban papers--but I'm keeping this simple). Because the names Herald-Express and Herald Examiner are similar, many people, especially younger folks who don't remember the Examiner,  confuse the two.

Paul Cardinal writes:

"I am a 73-year-old who was about age 10 when the Black Dahlia murder happened. The actual name of the paper then which was an afternoon paper was, the "Herald Express." What most people today would not believe, is, when the Dahlia murder happened, initially, the Herald actually had front page photos of Elizabeth Short's Torso and Morgue photos. Yes, they actually did that in 1946 or 47. The morning delivered Times nor the Examiner would never have anything to do with printing those photos and of course the Herald in their eyes printed them to boost circulation. I don't make this stuff up. The former Examiner Reporter either wasn't around at that time or doesn't have much of a memory."

As Vincent Bugliosi says: "The palest ink is better than the best memory." Actually, the Examiner ran a Page 1 photo of Elizabeth Short's body with a blanket painted over it, shown above. The Herald Express and the Daily News followed with heavily retouched morgue shots on Page 1 in an attempt to identify her.

The Times, in one of its most questionable news decisions, ran the story inside every day with one exception: The arrest of Joseph Dumais as a suspect.

Here's more on the early history of Los Angeles' newspapers, from 1932.

Sept. 4, 1932, Newspapers

Sept. 4, 1932, Newspapers



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