This week, as I was meeting with Washington Post sources in the nation’s capital, my phone kept buzzing with dismal—indeed, funereal—updates from my own hometown paper, The Los Angeles Times. Two weeks after the abrupt departure of executive editor Kevin Merida, and days after the subsequent evacuation of top editorial executives Shani Hilton and Sara Yasin, the paper was now embarking on a new round of layoffs targeting roughly 115 journalists, or 20 percent of the newsroom—and doing so in unpleasant fashion, with reporters and editors being informed of their terminations via Zoom, then immediately locked out of their email and Slack accounts.
These cuts, staggering as they were, belied the true extent of the damage the paper has endured under Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor and scientist who acquired the paper and some affiliated outlets from Tribune in 2018 for $500 million. In the last year, the L.A. Times has laid off nearly a third of its journalists to counter roughly $40 million in annual losses. Notably, the most recent round of cuts has targeted many of the younger, digitally savvy journalists who were brought in to reinvigorate a beleaguered paper that had largely drifted into national—and arguably even local and regional—irrelevance.