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Norm Pearlstine, who announced plans to retire as executive editor of the LA Times in October, officially vacated his post on Monday — accelerating the hunt for a replacement.
Sources tell The Post that the three outside candidates topping the list are Janice Min, the former editor-in-chief of US Weekly who later turned around the struggling Hollywood Reporter; Marc Lacey, assistant managing editor of the New York Times, and Kevin Merida, an ESPN senior vp and editor-in-chief of ESPN sports blog The Undefeated.
The candidates either could not be reached for comment or declined to comment.
All three candidates are minorities in keeping with the paper’s promises to diversify its leadership.
Min, the daughter of South Korean immigrants, would mark the paper’s first woman executive editor. Plus, as someone who’s lived and reported from LA for over a decade, she’s a known powerbroker in the entertainment world.
Marc Lacey, a former White House correspondent who is black, was just promoted to assistant managing editor and editor of the paper’s new Live product of briefings, blogs and chats meant “to take real-time journalism to the next level.”
Merida, who is also black, is seen as a rising star at ESPN as he expands The Undefeated, which covers sports, race and culture, across Walt Disney-owned platforms. He was formerly head of the ESPN editorial board and earlier this year was given a direct report to ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro.
It has been a painful year for the LA Times, which has been ravaged by criticisms in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pearlstine in June presided over a stormy five-hour town hall that had many women and minority journalists complaining that they had been marginalized and underpaid for years.
The LA Times and its former Tribune Publishing owner recently paid $3.1 million to a settle class action lawsuit alleging pay discrimination.
The paper’s current owner, Patrick Soon Shiong, recently hired New York based-headhunter Karen Danziger of Koller Search to lead the search.
One reason may be that Soon-Shiong is also a health care billionaire who has been deeply involved in his company’s race to develop vaccines. “He’s still interested in the LA Times but he has been deeply involved in trying to develop vaccines to combat the coronavirus,” said one source.
Soon-Shiong, according to one insider, was not overtly involved in the internal race discussions but was upset by their intensity. He had paid $500 million to buy the paper and the smaller San Diego Union Tribune from Tribune Publishing in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to worsening losses at the paper.
Soon-Shiong told staff on Monday that Pearlstine was no longer leading the newsroom and had become an advisor. Two insiders have taken over as the search for a permanent replacement continues.
“Times Managing Editors Scott Kraft and Kimi Yoshino will now be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the newsroom, reporting to me,” Soon-Shiong said in the note. “Sewell Chan, editor of the Editorial Pages, will also report to me.”
The wide-ranging search will include internal as well as external candidates, sources said.
As The Post previously reported, Dean Baquet, executive editor at the New York Times who faces a mandatory retirement age of 65 next year, had earlier been eyed as a potential frontrunner for the job. He had a stormy tenure running the LA Times newsroom back in 2005-2006 and some thought he might want to finish his career there. But The Times is apparently willing to extend Baquet’s tenure to 2022.
Pearlstine was already back on the East Coast when Soon-Shiong’s announcement hit on Monday. He had been running the newsroom for 2 1/2 years and had a contract that extended into 2021. While the 78-year-old editor said in October he planned to retire, there was no timetable and the news of his departure still caught some by surprise.
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