Once it was the newspaper for the city's working class, a key piece of Hearst's sensational empire.
In the end, however, Hearst Corp. was willing to give the Los Angeles Herald Examiner away, as long as a buyer had the financial backing and commitment to seriously attempt a turnaround.
At least one group made an offer in recent weeks, although it wanted Hearst to continue to share in the losses.
But 86 years after William Randolph Hearst founded what was then called the Examiner and after losing more than $85 million since 1984 alone, Hearst Corp. wanted out. And no qualified buyers wanted it on those terms.
The announcement Wednesday that Hearst was giving up the search says something about how newspapers became a white-collar medium after World War II. It says something too about the troubles of the Hearst Corp.
When it began in 1903, Hearst had already inherited the Examiner in San Francisco and had started the Journal in New York.
He was a champion of the progressive era and of sensationalist "yellow journalism," and had started building an empire that would extend to movies, magazines, newsreels, the International News Service and more. He was still attempting a political career that would end in two failed runs at the presidency.
And Hearst's arrival marked Los Angeles as an emerging city.
In 1913, he commissioned Julia Morgan of San Francisco to design a Spanish Renaissance headquarters at Broadway and 11th Street, with a hand-painted tiled lobby of gold and marble and a private apartment for Hearst upstairs.
In 1922, Hearst bought the afternoon Herald (founded in 1876), and in 1931, he bought the the Express (founded in 1871).
Two companies now dominated the city: Hearst with its morning Examiner and evening Herald-Express and Times Mirror with its morning Times and evening Mirror.
These were wild days, and no one epitomized Hearst's papers better than reporter and later Herald-Express city editor Agness Underwood.
Aggie's speciality was crime news, Hearst style.
"Sensational New Clues in Hunt for Fiend" headlined one of her stories, typical of the day.
And her first paragraph, about three children strangled in Inglewood, said it all: "What little Jeanette Marjorie Stephens loved in life--a ruffled blue organdy dress--will be her shroud in death."
After she became city editor in 1947, Underwood kept a baseball bat on her desk to use on obstreperous press agents, she would recall later.
And reporters swore she kept a gun with blanks inside her desk drawer, which she allegedly would fire at the ceiling if the place got too quiet.
After the war, and after William Randolph Hearst's death in 1951, Hearst newspapers had the same problem in Los Angeles as they did in other cities.
Hearst readers were generally blue collar and "that is the traditional audience that television took away in droves," said John Morton, a Washington newspaper analyst.
Hearst's heirs, who are now running the company, also failed to re-orient their papers toward an America that was becoming more suburban.
When Otis Chandler took over as publisher of The Times in 1960 and set about improving the paper, The Times already led in morning circulation over the Examiner by 150,000. Hearst's Herald-Express had a narrower lead in the afternoon.
Then in 1962, in a move some would later call collusion, Times Mirror closed the afternoon Mirror. Hearst, in turn, merged the Herald-Express and the Examiner and abandoned the morning field to The Times.
The choice would prove fateful. Afternoon papers were difficult to deliver on time in the suburbs, Morton said, and only blue-collar readers tended to want a paper delivered at that time of day.
By 1967, the rival Times enjoyed a 2-1 lead in advertising, despite only a 120,000 advantage in circulation. The Herald Examiner still had 720,000 in circulation, but it was stagnant and advertisers were fleeing.
Then came the strike.
The American Newspaper Guild struck the Herald over wages in 1967. Eleven other unions eventually joined.
Labor, the heart of Herald readership, started to switch to The Times.
The strike lasted 10 years, in part, say Herald staffers from the era, because Publisher George Hearst wanted to break the unions.
When the strike ended in 1977, Herald circulation was cut in half to 330,000.
In the years since, Hearst changed from a company run by William Randolph's heirs to professional managers, and the company hunted for a plan to save the Herald Examiner.
It installed Francis Dale as publisher and in 1978, named James Bellows as editor. Bellows was best known as the innovative editor of the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked with such writers as Jimmy Breslin and Tom Wolfe.
Their strategy, essentially, was to position the paper for younger, sophisticated readers who might see The Times as stodgy--a newspaper designed for the Westside and the movie colony.
It never took hold.