Kevin Merida is the new top editor of The Los Angeles Times. The editor-in-chief of The Undefeated — ESPN’s website that explores the intersection of race, culture and sports — takes over for Norman Pearlstine, who stepped down in December.
Merida, 64, comes in with a wealth of journalistic experience. While at ESPN, he oversaw the network’s investigative and enterprise units, as well as top-notch TV shows such as “E:60” and “Outside the Lines.” He also spent 22 years at The Washington Post, where he was managing editor in charge of news, features and the news desk. Merida’s name had been mentioned as a potential successor to Marty Baron, who retired as the Post’s executive editor earlier this year. Baron’s position has not been permanently filled.
Merida told The Los Angeles Times’ Meg James, “I’m thrilled to be joining the Los Angeles Times. I’m going to do everything I can to make this the greatest media outlet for the people of California, of L.A. — and beyond. I see nothing but opportunity. I think this can be the most innovative media company in the country.”
Merida takes over a news organization in transition. Last fall, the paper wrote about its reckoning with race. Owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong even wrote an editorial talking about the Times’ commitment to making things better at the Times.
The hiring of Merida is a big step in that direction. Merida, who is Black, becomes the third person of color to take over the Times, according to James.
James wrote, “Merida quickly emerged as front-runner for the job because of his reputation as a thoughtful journalist with a rare combination of experience at legacy print publications, television and running a digital upstart. He is widely respected among colleagues and in the news industry.”
Soon-Shiong told James that Merida’s mandate “will be to maintain the highest level of journalistic strength and find ways to grab the attention of our community … not just Los Angelenos but also readers in the western region and hopefully even the nation. And most importantly, his job is to move us into the digital arena. We want this paper to grow and be around for another 139 years.”
Merida is expected to start his new job in June.