The Los Angeles Times Monday announced award-winning journalist Kevin Merida as the new executive editor of the 139-year-old metropolitan newspaper.
The announcement from the paper’s owners, Dr. Patrick and Michele Soon-Shiong, comes after a five-month search for a leader of the roughly 500-person newsroom.
Merida, who is Black, will become the 19th editor of The Times in June and the third person of color to steer the largest news organization in the West.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the Los Angeles Times. I’m going to do everything I can to make this the greatest media outlet for the people of California, of L.A. — and beyond,” Merida said in an interview with The Times. “I see nothing but opportunity. I think this can be the most innovative media company in the country.”
Merida, 64, succeeds Norman Pearlstine, 78, who stepped down in December after serving in that capacity since 2018. Merida has been serving as editor-in-chief of ESPN’s Undefeated division. He also oversaw ESPN’s investigative/news enterprise unit, the television shows “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” and was acting as chairman of ESPN’s Editorial Board.
Before ESPN, the Boston University graduate and former White House correspondent spent three decades in traditional newsrooms, including 22 years at The Washington Post, where he became managing editor and was “deeply involved in the Post’s online push that led to sustained subscriber growth, gaining insights that could prove valuable to his success at The Times,” according to an article published Monday in The Times.
Merida told The Times he has a deep love of writing, but throughout his career, he has found himself drawn into management.
“Broadening how we define a newspaper, which is important to me, is where I see a lot of opportunity,” Merida said.
The paper has 327,250 Sunday print subscribers, nearly 400,000 digital-only subscribers, and averages 45 million unique visitors monthly to its digital site, according to The Times, but the paper has fallen short of the goals for digital customers set by Soon-Shiong.
“His (Merida’s) mandate will be to maintain the highest level of journalistic strength and find ways to grab the attention of our community — not just Los Angelenos but also readers in the western region and hopefully even the nation,” Dr. Soon-Shiong said. “And most importantly, his job is to move us into the digital arena. We want this paper to grow and be around for another 139 years.”
Merida’s hiring also takes a step toward delivering on the owner’s promise to readers last fall to increase newsroom diversity, which the biotech entrepreneur called “mission-critical for our business,” according to The Times.
“Only a diverse newsroom can accurately tell this city’s stories,” Soon-Shiong said.
Merida and his wife Michele plan to relocate from their home in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles in the coming months, along with their youngest son, Skye Merida, according to The Times. Their two older sons already live in Los Angeles: screenwriter Justin Britt-Gibson and actor Darrell Britt-Gibson.
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