1965 Watts Rebellion as covered by Los Angeles Free Press (FREEP)
In the following excerpt from my book, On the Ground (PM Press), FREEP founder, and author of the article, Art Kunkin discusses the impact of the coverage on circulation.
In the first year the paper was very tiny, and I had built it up to five thousand paid circulation, at ten cents apiece. The LA Times wrote a piece about me, “Why Does the Free Press cost ten cents?” and I got little boosts like that. I began giving papers to kids to go out and sell in the streets and make some money. Eventually I rented a garage up in Hollywood, and kids would come by and leave a knapsack or something and get a pack of papers and go out and sell them and then bring back the money to rescue their knapsacks. And they, you know, hundreds of kids were supporting themselves eventually like that.
But the first big break took place during the Watts Riots. During the Watts Riots I ran a headline saying, “The Negroes Have Voted.” I had lots of contacts in the civil rights movement and I had helped start the Congress of Racial Equality here and I’d been on the NAACP board. So I had some knowledge of the black situation, and I wrote this headline on this front-page article saying when the negros don’t get their issues handled in the courts, they go out in the streets—and that’s a different kind of voting. Everybody else was talking about fires in Watts and criminals, and I’m saying that this is a rebellion and people are voting with their feet, so I was on every program in L.A. that week. I was on maybe ten news programs, and that week the paper jumped from five thousand to twenty-five thousand paid circulation. People were buying more copies in the street, and I bought more boxes. When I had started the paper in May of 1964 (the Village Voice was about five or six years old) the Village Voice had a paid circulation of 27,600, and so that was my target. I figured, you know, if I had ever arrived there, that was success. And the week or two after the Watts Riots, that’s where I was. I had jumped from a little tiny hippie paper to being sold on the streets.