LOS ANGELES (AP) — The executive editor of the Los Angeles Times announced Tuesday that he is stepping down after a 2 1/2-year tenure at the newspaper that spanned the coronavirus pandemic and three Pulitzer Prizes, as well as a period of layoffs and contentious contract negotiations with the newsroom’s union.
Kevin Merida’s last day will be Friday. He and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the paper’s owner, “mutually agreed” on the departure, according to statements released Tuesday.
“Today, with a heavy heart, I announce that I am leaving The Times,” Merida wrote to the staff. “I made the decision in consultation with Patrick, after considerable soul-searching about my career at this stage and how I can best be of value to the profession I love.”
The Times won three Pulitzer Prizes under Merida’s leadership. The journalism veteran joined the storied newspaper in June 2021 after leading an ESPN unit focused on race, culture and sports.
The LA Times Guild, the paper’s union, released a statement wishing Merida well, calling him “a smart and thoughtful leader under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
The union’s leadership group, the Unit Council, informed members it would work with Soon-Shiong to find a successor who “can bring vision and clarity to The Times in the months and years ahead.”
Soon-Shiong said he and leaders in the newsroom will look at candidates inside and outside the company to replace Merida.
The news organization has fallen well short of its digital subscriber goals and needs a revenue boost to sustain the newsroom and its digital operations, the Times said.
Soon-Shiong acknowledged “persistent challenges” facing the Times and said “it is now imperative that we all work together to build a sustainable business that allows for growth and innovation of the LA Times and LA Times Studios in order to achieve our vision.”
Soon-Shiong and his family acquired the Times nearly six years ago from Tribune Co., restoring the 142-year-old institution to local ownership after more than a decade of cost-cutting and staff exodus.
Merida, who turns 67 this month, spent three decades in traditional newsrooms, including 22 years at the Washington Post, where he rose to managing editor in charge of news, features and the universal news desk. He was deeply involved in the Post’s online push that led to sustained subscriber growth, gaining insights that Soon-Shiong and journalists hoped would translate into his success at the Times.
Merida’s departure comes after a rocky year and a devastating round of layoffs last summer that eliminated 13% of newsroom positions. On the business side, the Los Angeles Times Studios — once seen by Merida as a key area of growth — was significantly scaled back.
“I am proud of what we accomplished together during my tenure here, and grateful to Patrick Soon-Shiong and family for the opportunity to help transform The Times into a modern, innovative news media company for a new generation of consumers,” Merida wrote. ”We’ve made tremendous progress toward that goal, and I am hopeful that progress will continue.”