Los Angeles Times, executive editor, Kevin Merida

Resignation Of LA Times’ First Black Executive Editor Sparks Controversy

Less than three years after Merida’s celebrated arrival at the paper, a search for a new executive editor will have to commence.

Kevin Merida, who became The Los Angeles Times’ first Black executive editor, resigned surprisingly on Jan. 19. Despite colleagues praising Meridia, Times employees, speaking anonymously to The Objective, criticized his lack of preparedness in addressing questions about the paper’s decision to cut jobs, particularly those of Black and other journalists of color in June 2023, and a November staff call they deemed “tone-deaf.”

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who purchased the paper in 2018, consulted with Merida and told the staff that they had “mutually agreed that his (Merida’s) role as executive editor of the L.A. Times will conclude this week.” Less than three years after Merida’s celebrated arrival at the paper, after which he bested 30 applicants to head one of the nation’s premier newsrooms, it appears a new search for executive editor will have to commence. 

One of the staffers described an environment that was hyper-focused on profitability, telling The Objective, “I want us to do well as a newsroom…but a lot of the language here is about being profitable, and getting conversions and clicks and getting millions of views,  it just rings hollow to me, and I think it honestly rings hollow to a lot of people.

The staffer added, “That’s why there’s some resentment of praising teams like Fast Break [a relatively new team dedicated to fast coverage of breaking news and trending topics] because, you know, are we rewarding the right thing?”

Another point raised by the staffers The Objective spoke with was the paper’s harsh treatment of its employee who were in defense of Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war. On this end, Merida clashed with Soon-Shiong’s daughter, Nika, the paper’s self-appointed and unofficial ombudsman, The Hollywood Reporter reported. She has been known to publicly bash journalists when their politics don’t align with her own progressive thinking.

The recent conflict between Nika and Merida revolved around The Times‘ coverage of the Middle East war. Senior editors expressed outrage to Merida with more than three dozen reporters signing a Nov. 9 statement critical of Israel’s invasion of Gaza while downplaying the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel from Hamas-controlled territory. Merida eventually imposed a 90-day restriction on petition-signers from covering the conflict, a decision reportedly that was not well-received by Patrick Soon-Shiong and Nika, who has expressed pro-Palestinian views on her X/Twitter feed.

According to a current staffer, another problem with The Times is Soon-Shiong’s pursuit of profit, which they intimate played a part in the abrupt departure of Merida. “The newsroom is being run as a for-profit company owned by a billionaire who wants to steer toward profit,” one staffer said. “And that was his [Merida’s] edict and he had to do it. So, you know, he had a job to do, but I don’t think it was a vision that I could fully get on board with, anyway.”

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