August 21, 2018

Hire of new L.A. Times deputy managing editor widely praised

When Sewell Chan was 14, he got the chance to cover the Democratic National Convention in New York for the Children’s Express, a now-defunct nonprofit news service. He interviewed DNC chair Ron Brown and delegates who would choose Bill Clinton to run for president. 

That heady experience, plus working on and eventually editing his high school newspaper, gave the son of immigrants “a license to be curious,” he told me on Monday.

Chan took that license and drove, from local reporting at The Washington Post and The New York Times, to the NYT’s deputy op-ed editor, news editor for breaking news in London and currently international news editor in New York.

On Monday, The Los Angeles Times announced Chan would be moving to the other coast, as the LAT’s deputy managing editor. He will report directly to Norman Pearlstine, the media veteran named executive editor in June by the paper’s new owner, billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The purchase of the paper and its amazing potential under new ownership had gotten Chan’s attention. “Contact was made — that’s all I can say — and things moved rapidly from there,” he said Monday.

Emerging from indifferent Tronc leadership, the Times is rebuilding under Soon-Shiong with a flurry of new hires, a brand-new newsroom and a sense of excitement. Unlike many newspapers, “survival is not the motivation that we have,” Soon-Shiong said in June. “It’s really to thrive.”

Sewell Chan
Sewell Chan (Photo/Los Angeles Times)

With that support, a talented staff and able newsroom leaders like managing editor Scott Kraft, deputy managing editor Kimi Yoshino and new transformation editor Kris Viesselman, Chan sees the L.A. Times as best positioned to reflect a part of America that is booming economically, becoming more diverse and leading in tech and culture. The Times also is best placed to mine California's divergences with Washington on energy, immigration policy, transportation and the role of government.

“People want to understand the America we are becoming, and the Los Angeles Times is the gatekeeper of that America,” says Chan, who will supervise journalists responsible for developing digital, video and print stories. Acknowledging that he’ll spending much of his first few months getting up to speed on the place, Chan says he sees opportunities in deepening coverage in sports, food, Asia-Pacific issues, technology and creativity.

Kraft, running the day-to-day newsroom, said he was thrilled that Chan was coming aboard in September. "He’s a seasoned news leader with a zeal for driving daily coverage," Kraft says, "and he’ll be a crucial part of our newsroom’s future.”

A NYT newsroom memo called him "a powerful and energetic leader in crafting Times journalism." It added that Chan "literally bounces off his chair with ideas and urgency."

Journalists and media watchers far beyond Los Angeles praised the hire, including former colleagues sad to see Chan go. “LAT has picked up a formidable news champion,” tweeted Patrick LaForge, who runs the NYT’s breaking news express team.

Quick hits

THE STORY OF A FACE: How National Geographic came to cover this path-breaking surgery and what happened next. By Barbara Allen.

FIRST PERSON: Alexandra Glorioso complained about the battery of expensive tests. Unnecessary, she said. Then she found out she had cancer. “And now I’ve been given the thing I’ve always wanted as a journalist: access … I am in reporter heaven even if I am in cancer-patient hell.”

HONORED: Carolyn Ryan, assistant managing editor of The New York Times, has won the inaugural leadership award from NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. “Since she worked in Boston and now at The New York Times, Carolyn has continued to make strategic hiring decisions that bring true diversity to the newsroom, landing some of the best people in the business,” said NLGJA president Jen Christensen, who calls Ryan "a personal hero." 

CAN I SUE: Deceitful? Yes. Actionable? Um, likely not. People pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen may have signed releases indemnifying Cohen and producers of Showtime's "What Is America?" from legal action, Sopan Deb writes. 

SNACKABLE JOURALISM: I must confess, I didn’t see this coming. VICE’s Munchies vertical has signed a deal to open a food court in a mall in New Jersey.

TWEET OF THE DAY: From the NYT's Ken Vogel. Folks, be careful out there:

What we’re reading

NOT FREEZING: When is permafrost not permafrost? When the earth in one of the coldest places is not freezing. National Geographic has the story from Cherskiy, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle — and the implications if carbon-rich places start releasing massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

VULTURE: When a health company CEO researched the “activist investor” buying a stake, the experience was like “Googling this thing on your arm and it says, ‘You’re going to die.’” On June 6, that CEO — Jonathan Bush of Athenahealth — resigned. From Sheelah Kolhatkar of The New Yorker.


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