IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR HASHTAG SPORTS - Omar Raja, left, creator of House of Highlights on Instagram, greets journalists LZ Granderson and Kevin Merida at the Hashtag Sports 2018 conference on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in New York. (Kevin Hagen/Hashtag Sports via AP Images)

The wait is finally over — and the rumors are true.

After months of speculation, The Los Angeles Times has revealed Kevin Merida as its new executive editor, taking over from Norman Pearlstine, who stepped down in December and is now senior adviser to the executive chairman, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Pearlstine was in the role for around two and a half years.

Merida joins from ESPN where he was senior vice president and also editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, a multimedia platform that explores the intersections of race, sports and culture, since November 2015. During his tenure at ESPN, he also oversaw the Investigative/News Enterprise unit, the television shows “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” and chaired ESPN’s editorial board. 

He does bring with him, though, many years of newspaper experience. Prior to ESPN, Merida worked for The Washington Post, beginning in 1993, and held a variety of roles, most recently as managing editor for news, features and The Post’s universal news desk.

“We are elated to welcome Kevin to the Los Angeles Times,” Patrick and Michele Soon-Shiong, owners of The Times, said in a statement. “Kevin possesses a clear understanding of the rigor necessary for independent journalism and how to translate that journalism to multiple platforms. He also shares our passion for the unique opportunity we have to build the L.A. Times into a media enterprise with a distinct West Coast point of view.”

Merida, who begins his new job next month, said: “I am excited to be the next executive editor of the L.A. Times, and will bring with me an open heart, a penchant for experimentation and a fiercely competitive spirit. Looking forward to partnering with new colleagues and soaring to greater heights together.”

He was rumored to also have been considered for the executive editor role at The Washington Post. Marty Baron, the longtime executive editor of the paper, which is now owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, informed staffers in January that he would step down after eight years at the helm.

As for what awaits Merida in his new role, while the paper has grown under Patrick Soon-Shiong’s ownership and won Pulitzer prizes, there have been concerns over diversity and inclusion in both terms of its staff, as well as coverage.

The publication also faces an uphill battle when it comes to boosting digital subscribers, an area that The New York Times has excelled at during the pandemic. At the same time, The Washington Post has also made promising progress.

Increasing subscribers is more important than ever against a backdrop of plunging advertising that was only exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. As reported by The Wrap, The Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune saw revenue drop by more than $50 million in 2020.

 

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