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25 Years Ago: Wave Newspaper, Owned by Hews Media, Survives the 1992 Los Angeles Riots

Courtesy Huffington Post.

 

By Brian Hews

It is still embedded in my memory, as I am sure it is for thousands of other people.

I was at the Forum Club, a lunch dinner place that was located inside the now rebuilt Forum where the Lakers once played.

We were enjoying lunch and watching the TV intently as the verdict was read in the Rodney King trail.

We were all sure the cops would be found guilty in beating King, but as we all know that is not what happened.

My family owned what was the largest community newspaper in the nation at the time called Wave Newspaper Group, a publication that was home delivered to all of South-Central Los Angeles.

The delivery borders of the newspaper were roughly the 10 freeway on the north, the 405 freeway to the west and to the south, and the 710 freeway to the east.

Ground zero of the riots.

The Wave was free and boasted a staggering 280,000 weekly circulation home delivered every Thursday; the paper averaged 40 pages, with a 10 page classified section, and was “standard” size publication, the same size as the current LA Times.

The Wave had 30 journalists, 20 sales people, a fleet of 16 delivery trucks with 48 delivery personnel, along with 30 operational employees.

But everything would change for everybody in South Central after that night.

The verdict was unbelievable. We were all shocked and saddened after it was read, and we all knew something was going to happen.

At the Forum Club, I looked at my VP of Sales and said, “we need to go.”

We went back to our offices at 54th and 5th, nearest major cross-street was 54th and Crenshaw, and quickly packed our stuff up ready to go.

Everyone was running around with stunned looks on their faces, some were obviously angry.

It was press night and all of the Wave’s personnel, including my brother Ed Hews, were working on finishing the newspaper so it could go on the press.

We all pitched in, the paper was ready to go in two hours, so we were able to leave around 5 p.m.

You could feel the tension as I drove down Slauson Ave. to the 110 freeway.

Driving out I could see the anguish and anger on people’s faces; a few buildings were already on fire and looting had just started.

And it was all ethnicities; these people were angry, angry at the verdict and angry about the years of neglect the entire area endured.

Many people were hurling insults at me, while running into the street in front of cars.

I literally ran through several red lights to avoid being stopped, I was very glad I had a fast car at the time.

I made it to the 110 freeway and got home about 1 hour later only to watch in horror as Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck and beaten at the intersection of Florence and Normandie, only two miles away from Wave offices.

And as we all know, it only got worse.

Later that night, a huge police command post was set up at the RTD bus station just one block from our offices on Van Ness and 54th.

My father, who ran the company at the time, told all senior managers to come on in the next morning to formulate plans going forward.

It was Thursday, the day the paper was delivered, and the delivery personnel were out bravely doing their job.

We learned later that some of the drivers and delivery personnel were shot at.

On my way in, I’ll never forget the transition from the 405 freeway north to the 110 freeway, it was something out of a sci-fi movie.

Black plumes of smoke were rising from the city in several areas, small fires could be seen everywhere.

Where there was usually thousands, only a few vehicles occupied the freeway, most of them were emergency fire vehicles with firemen hanging on to the sides of the trucks like rag dolls looking as if they had been to war.

I can still remember the look they gave me as I drove by as if saying, “what in the hell are you doing here?”

I made it to the office without incident; I knew the area well so I took shortcuts through neighborhoods to get to the office.

All other managers made it too. We gathered in the conference room including our Editor Alice Marshall who proudly stated that her entire editorial staff had no problem going out and bravely chronicling one of the worst riots areas in US history.

Several of our writers and photographers won awards for their heroic coverage.

We were getting reports from our drivers that the riots had “calmed down” for the morning, so they were able to finish delivering the paper.

But we all knew the second night was coming and that it could be worst than the first.

Remembering that this was the age of 500KB floppy disks, staff gathered all the information we could. Even though we were in the middle of a residential area, we assumed something might happen to the building.

Inside that building was our own $1 million press, which was to be “guarded” by our delivery crews.

We parked all trucks in front of the entrance to the press area, staggering them so if the building was attacked they would have to climb over or under the trucks.

Thankfully, nothing happened to the Wave offices or to the press that night.

But the night saw many businesses burned down and looted. I can recall talking to two business owners; one is Cerritos’ own Councilman Naresh Solanki, who were on the outskirts of the riot areas.

They did the same thing everyone else did to guard their business from looting. They climbed onto the roofs “at the ready” if anyone came near.

Finally day broke on Friday and the damage reports slowly started trickling in as was the questions of how the riots happened.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck recently told the LA Times, “I found myself among hundreds a fellow officers waiting at Florence and Normandie for orders that never came.”

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