The town of Pacific Palisades was founded in early 1922 by Methodists who migrated west. In September 1924, the fledgling Methodist-based community’s governing body, the Pacific Palisades Association, began publishing a monthly news-sheet known as The Progress, edited by one of their own, Thomas R. Gettys.
Every issue carried local church and social items and the latest real estate sales in a town being marketed with the slogan “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea”—an early marketing slogan “borrowed” from Santa Monica next door, which at the time nominally included the area to be known as Pacific Palisades.
Then came the man for the times. Thirty-two-year-old Telford Work moved to the Palisades in March 1926 as director of public relations for the Pacific Palisades Association, which had become the first major land dealer in the tract by snapping up a thousand acres at $618 an acre.
A bargain—a regular feature in the paper has been the rising price of a home—from an average $380,000 in 1980 to a median $2.4 million today.
A journalism graduate from the University of Southern California who had assembled a small chain of local newspapers near Fresno, Work became editor of The Progress.
On May 4, 1928, he launched The Palisadian, an eight-page weekly tabloid that sold for five cents a copy.
“It is with the confidence that an alert, constructive-spirited newspaper, distinctive in format and devoting itself resolutely in its news and editorial columns to making Pacific Palisades the business, banking, school and religious center of the north shore section … will meet with a hearty welcome from the residents of Pacific Palisades and the surrounding sections that the publisher herewith presents the first issue of The Palisadian,” Work wrote in his front-page editorial.
The lead story announced that $1 million was being spent to pave Marquez Avenue (now Chautauqua) and plant trees along the community’s link with Santa Monica Canyon. Chautauqua could do with that kind of attention again.
Right from the start, the newspaper was doing its job as a local newspaper by supporting a local landowner, Alphonzo Bell, who wanted to extract limestone from his land between Temescal and Santa Ynez canyons.
This was in contrast to the mighty Los Angeles Times, which supported the rival “cement trust” of outsider millionaires.
Work took Bell’s side, but was criticized for also running letters and opinion pieces from critics—then as now, seeking balance can be tricky.
On Sept. 7, 1934, Work sold The Palisadian to his friend Clifford D. Clearwater, who in 1922 had been one of the first settlers in the community with his young wife, Zola, living in a tent pitched in Temescal Canyon (today, such activities are frowned upon).
In fact, the first of the three Clifford children was the second child ever born in the Palisades.
Although untrained as a journalist (his previous jobs included delivering the mail by horseback as the town’s original postal carrier), Clearwater had natural talents that enabled him to serve with distinction as editor, publisher, photographer and civic leader until his death in 1956.
When Clearwater died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 59, his widow Zola took over as editor and publisher. Under the aegis of Telford Work, Zola radically updated the printing technology. She introduced the cheaper offset process, the first newspaper in Southern California to do so.
By 1960 she was ready to retire and sell her newspaper to “crosstown” rivals Charles Brown and William Brown, twin brothers from Minnesota—the “Midwest vibe” of the Palisades goes back a long way.
In 1954 the brothers had already acquired the Pacific Palisades Post, a separate publication that was established in 1950 by Paul. D. Weaver.
The Browns immediately consolidated both papers into one operation at 839 Via De La Paz, today’s Rodeo Realty, where two years earlier they had built their own printing plant.
The machinery enabled the Browns to publish their paper in a broadsheet format as opposed to The Palisadian’s smaller tabloid size. It went on to win many journalistic prizes.
Charlie and Bill Brown ran a thriving operation, financially and editorially until August 1981, when they sold their business to the Small Family of Kankakee, Illinois.
Jean Alice Small, her daughter, Jennifer Small, and her two sons, Len R. Small and Thomas P. Small, led the newspaper until 2012 when they sold the paper to Alan Smolinisky, a real estate entrepreneur born and raised in the Palisades.
At the time of the sale, Rob Small said “it has been a great privilege to have been part of this wonderful community since 1981, and to work with the magnificent staff at the Palisadian-Post … I am proud of what we have achieved and know that [the new ownership] will build on that tradition for even greater success.”
Smolinisky was 33 years old when he purchased the Palisadian-Post, Post Printing and the building located at 839 Via De La Paz on Dec. 5, 2012.
Smolinisky, a graduate of Palisades Charter High School and the University of Southern California, was known as a dedicated newspaper enthusiast who spends four to five hours per day reading.
Smolinisky wrote a Viewpoint in the Dec. 7, 2012, issue of the newspaper where he explained his love of the town and its only weekly newspaper.
He and his wife, Caroline, a native of Indiana and a fellow USC graduate, live in the Huntington Palisades with their children and newspapers. “I love that the Post has always been family-owned,” Smolinisky said.
On Jan. 30, 2013, the Los Angeles Times ran a front-page article titled “Pacific Palisades newspaper junkie buys his own paper.”
“Pacific Palisades is my favorite place on Earth, and the Palisadian-Post is my favorite newspaper,” Smolinisky said. “Since 1928, the Palisadian-Post has never missed a Thursday issue—through fires, floods, earthquakes, the Great Depression and wars, the paper has always made it to subscribers each week. I have a moral obligation to make sure this newspaper is published every Thursday for as long as I live.”
From the Methodist era to Alan Smolinisky, this newspaper has only been owned by five families. (By contrast, the LA Times has changed hands three times since the year 2000 alone, while racking up $12 billion in debt.)
By newspaper standards, never a peaceful industry, it has been as stable, strong and purposeful as the Palisades itself.