Owner of the Los Angeles Times and Top Editor Disagree Over Article’s Publication

Rift Between Los Angeles Times’s Owner and Top Editor Led to Journalist’s Departure

The Los Angeles Times, one of the largest news organizations on the West Coast, recently experienced a shakeup in leadership that has led to the resignation of its top editor, Kevin Merida. This decision came after a strained relationship between Merida and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire owner of The Los Angeles Times. The tension between the two men culminated in an incident where Dr. Soon-Shiong attempted to dissuade Merida from pursuing a story involving a wealthy California doctor and his dog.

Dr. Soon-Shiong’s attempt to intervene in the newspaper’s reporting was met with resistance from Merida and other editors, ultimately resulting in Merida’s departure. The incident occurred as The Los Angeles Times grappled with financial losses in a challenging newspaper market, with the company laying off approximately 20% of its newsroom staff.

While it is not unusual for newspaper owners to be consulted on sensitive reporting, especially when legal or financial implications are involved, it is relatively rare for an owner to pressure editors to halt reporting on a story before publication. The case highlights the complexity of the relationship between owners and editorial leadership in news organizations, particularly with regard to maintaining journalistic integrity.

Dr. Soon-Shiong has disputed the characterization of his actions, asserting that he merely requested “truthful, factual reporting” on the story in question. However, the incident has shed light on the dynamics between ownership and editorial decision-making at The Los Angeles Times.

The dispute that led to Merida’s resignation revolved around a story that a Los Angeles Times business reporter was pursuing regarding Dr. Gary Michelson, a prominent California surgeon who amassed his wealth through medical patents. The story involved dueling lawsuits related to an alleged incident where Dr. Michelson’s dog bit a woman at a Los Angeles park.

The sensitive nature of the story, as well as the prominent status of the individuals involved, created a challenging situation for the editorial team at The Los Angeles Times. The incident has underscored the delicate balance between the interests of newspaper owners and the responsibility of journalists to pursue truth and transparency in their reporting.

As The Los Angeles Times continues to navigate this leadership transition, it remains to be seen how the departure of Kevin Merida and the subsequent reshuffling of editorial roles will impact the newspaper’s journalistic direction and overall operations. The incident serves as a reminder of the complex dynamics at play within news organizations and the critical role of editorial independence in upholding journalistic ethics and standards.

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