In 1917 the news from Russia had the ultrasuperconservative Los Angeles Times--well, concerned. ""Red Terror Rips Silesia,"" spluttered a typical headline, ""Bolsheviki Destroy Schools. . . ."" So much for the rhetoric. Shortly thereafter a number of Californians closed a deal with the Bolsheviki to develop Siberian coal and oil fields. Heading the group was Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. There, in one swift example, is the tenor of this scathing, often dour profile of the newspaper, its eternally commercial Chandlers, their battle for the buck, and their headlock on practically everything from the San Fernando Valley to Baja. The product of two youngish West Coast ""alternative"" journalists aided by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Thinking Big pretends to none of the flair and insight of Gay Talese's The Kingdom and the Power, nor does it try to rise above its tremendous and admirable load of close detail, which carries from Harrison Gray Otis, Times builder and dye-caster at the turn of the century, through the diversification of the Times-Mirror Company in the mid-Seventies. The result, rather, is a flat, straight-faced damnation of the Times as Chandlerian club, wielded wantonly to bash liberal opposition and slam home the family's enriching personal designs--complete with the Times-promoted political hacks to carry them out. Not until the early Sixties, contend the authors, did the Times, by then under the somewhat less benighted Otis Chandler, become a newspaper of stature and even then progress was continually dogged by Chandlerian manipulation and bias. Allowed its own bias, Thinking Big rates high as a historical treatment but not so well in terms of living interest.