L.A. Times’ Kimi Yoshino: ‘I’m glad I didn’t give up on journalism’

January 13, 2019
Category: Business & Work

This is one of 15 profiles in our series on journalism’s last decade. For the rest of the stories, visit “The Hardest Decade in Journalism?

When she volunteered for a reporting rotation in Baghdad, Kimi Yoshino was covering tourism for the Los Angeles Times.

Yoshino spent a few months in Iraq, (where she also met her future husband,) but back then, her career felt stagnant and, for the first time, a career outside of journalism seemed like a possibility.

“But the L.A. Times was also in upheaval,” she said. “It was in the height of the Sam Zell era and the company was being crushed under a mountain of debt; Tribune Co. ended the year by filing for bankruptcy protection.”

Now, Yoshino’s the senior deputy managing editor, and everything about her work and her newsroom has changed.

In the last 10 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve had to make in your job?

The job I have today is very different from the job I had before. But as a whole, everyone in the newspaper industry has been forced to rethink what it is we do and how we do it. We think far beyond the reporting and the writing. Now we must consider how the story is delivered — for video, audio, social. Being a reporter and editor is more complex than 10-15 years ago and requires a more extensive suite of skills to succeed at the highest levels.

What are you doing now that you didn’t expect to be doing 10 years ago?

Part of this is a function of my current job, but I certainly did not expect to be spending so much time interacting with the business side of our operation. I have regular contact with folks in departments including events, advertising, marketing and digital analytics/subscriptions. I’m also involved in some new video and podcast ventures at the L.A. Times.

Looking back, what do you wish you’d done or changed faster?

I wish I had learned to code! And I wish the Los Angeles Times’ ownership had been more stable, and that past managers had charted a course to success earlier.

Looking back, what are you glad you didn’t give up in your career?

I’m glad I didn’t give up on journalism. And I’m especially thankful that I didn’t give up on the Los Angeles Times.

How have newsroom layoffs impacted your work, your newsroom and the city where you live?

I saw some internal numbers recently that showed the L.A. Times newsroom with a headcount of about 840 in June of 2008. Today — and this is after a rash of recent hiring — we’re at about 500. Although there are many different areas of coverage that have been affected, I think the biggest is to local news. There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County alone and we don’t cover them with the same depth that we used to. You see that at other local publications, too. The L.A. Weekly is a shell of its former self. And in Long Beach, where I live, the staff of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, owned by Digital First Media, has dwindled to the point that only a handful of reporters are dedicated solely to Long Beach coverage.

Where do you think you’ll be 10 years from now?

Hopefully still at a thriving Los Angeles Times.

What’s the best thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

I think it’s the rise of non-profit journalism — and the willingness of foundations and wealthy individuals to fund these endeavors. Outlets like ProPublica, the Marshall Project and InsideClimate News are just a few of the non-profit organizations producing outstanding and essential coverage.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in journalism in the past decade?

Donald Trump’s war on the mainstream media and his promotion of “fake news” has not been good for journalism. He has made the media the enemy and opened the door for lies to be perpetuated as facts.

What are you the most excited about now in your career?

I’m excited to be a part of the resurgent Los Angeles Times, under the ownership of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and the leadership of Norman Pearlstine. I’m looking forward to 2019 and to helping build a strong foundation and strategic plan for the paper’s continued success and survival.

What are you the most afraid of now in your career?

I feel a great responsibility to help rebuild the Los Angeles Times and restore its place as a must-read publication in California and beyond. I don’t want to squander this huge opportunity we’ve been given.