Editor-in-chief Sara Yasin is leaving amid the LA Times turmoil

(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

Editor-in-chief Sara Yasin is leaving amid the LA Times turmoil

Mega James

January 22, 2024

Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief Sara Yasin resigned Monday amid unrest gripping the newsroom


deep cuts in staff

that lie in wait.

Yasin’s departure comes just over a week after editor-in-chief Kevin Merida abruptly left, citing disagreements with the newspaper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong. The owner has ordered extensive staff cuts to reduce the tens of millions of dollars in losses he and his family have suffered since purchasing The Times nearly six years ago.

Another top editor, Shani Hilton, resigned last week, increasing the number of top editors who have left during a


stormy period at The Times. Merida and Hilton were the two highest-ranking black editors at The Times.

In a note to staff members, Yasin cited professional and personal decisions for her decision to leave.

The short version: I would like to do something different, Yasin wrote on Monday. “I’ve worked as an editorial lead for the past few years, which has allowed me to use my management and problem-solving skills, but I miss being closer to storytelling.

Her departure comes after 10 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Soon-Shiong and Media Guild of the West President Matt Pearce, imploring the two parties to find less devastating ways to deal with the staff cuts that have hit the biggest newsroom in the western US. shrink by more than 20%. The letter comes after a one-day strike on Friday by the editors’ union.

The battle for staffing comes at a time when The Times has been struggling

financial losses

for the time

as print subscribers

decreasing decline

and advertisers are migrating to other online platforms to reach consumers. The Times lost about $40 million last year, according to knowledgeable sources not authorized to speak publicly.

A spokesperson for The Times did not confirm the extent of the losses covered by the Soon-Shiong family, but said the number was in “tens of millions.”

“We are concerned about reports of potential layoffs facing the LA Times newsroom and the impact it will have on all Angelenos, the availability of essential news and the strength of our democracy overall,” the California Democrats wrote, including Representative Jimmy Gomez, Representative Pete Aguilar, Representative Judy Chu, Representative Ted Lieu,

Representative Robert Garcia

and Rep. Adam Schiff.

“The LA Times is an irreplaceable resource for our constituents, and we applaud the dedication of the journalists who have made the newspaper a hub of information and expert advice for our community.”

“As we approach the upcoming elections, the role of news media in providing accurate and unbiased information becomes even more important. Our community relies on newspapers to stay informed about local and national events, and a reduction in the number of reporters could adversely affect the quality of reporting,” the lawmaker wrote. “The preservation of democracy depends on a free and robust press, and the LA Times has played an important role in upholding this democratic principle.”

Times spokesperson Hillary Manning said in a statement: “We appreciate the concerns elected officials have expressed about the expected layoffs. We have made it very clear to many of these same lawmakers in recent years the existential crisis facing local news publishers. The Los Angeles Times faces economic challenges as acute as any. We are fortunate to have key leaders at both the state and federal levels who are taking on this task and fighting diligently to preserve a free press.” The Times also made an appeal

state and federal lawmakers to “advance proposed legislation that could help address the financial challenges of local news publishers in California and the United States.”

Soon-Shiong has pledged to continue investing in the newspaper and cover millions of dollars in losses expected this year.

More than 350 staff, or about 90% of journalists covered by the Guild, refused to work to protest the


budget cuts and management’s attempt to relax job protections based on seniority. The newsroom is bracing for more than 100 layoffs, or about 20% of the newsroom, since Merida’s departure.

Last week, the newspaper’s management approached the guild’s negotiating committee,

looking for what managers described as one-offs

Changes to the union contract that protects senior staff from layoffs. Soon-Shiong and other managers


flexibility to draw from a pool of more experienced staffers rather than weeding out the most recent hires, many of whom are diverse.

The proposal was rejected by the union, although the two sides are expected to discuss the situation this week.

The LA Times has historically struggled to diversify its staff to better reflect a region as diverse as California. A round of layoffs last summer involving dozens of journalists of color was a setback to those efforts. Last summer, the newsroom was cut by 13%.

Hilton, who had been with the newspaper for four years, told employees last week that she had planned to leave even before Merida’s departure. She oversaw LA Times Studios, which was hit hard by a series of layoffs in December.

Yasin joined




Times two, almost a year ago.

In her role as editor-in-chief, she was responsible for the daily management of the editorial team.



served as editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, where she worked to build a new audience for that medium’s journalism. Buzzfeed News closed its doors last year as digital media outlets struggled to retain audiences

amid investor demands for an end to the red ink


Yasin was one of the country’s most senior Palestinian-American journalists.

She has faced increasing criticism as news organizations rushed to respond to the contentious division over how best to cover the Israeli bombing of Palestinians in Gaza in the wake of the terror attacks.


Oct. 7 massacre by




as well as the fate of Palestinians caught up in the war.

Like many other media outlets, the Los Angeles Times grappled with the issue internally. In late October, about three dozen journalists from The Times signed an open letter criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and the high death toll among Palestinian journalists covering the war.

Yasin did not sign the letter, but during meetings with top editors she expressed her empathy for the journalists who signed the letter.

Merida quickly removed the staffers who signed the letter from the newspaper’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, citing the newspaper’s ethics policy that prohibits staffers from taking a political position. Yasin supported Merida’s decision, which was met with pressure

back from some staffers, community groups supporting Palestinians and even members of the Soon-Shiong family.

Patrick Soon-Shiong later expressed disappointment in the way the case was handled, saying he wished Merida had told him in advance about the actions to remove the journalists from coverage.

Yasin said her decision to leave was “completely unrelated” to the dispute over the letter.

She grew up in North Carolina, but some members of her extended family remain in the Middle East.

In her note, Yasin thanked Merida for bringing her to The Times.

“I’m grateful to Kevin for giving me this opportunity, and to everyone who welcomed me here and helped me adapt to this city and the LA Times,”

Yasin wrote. “It has been an honor to be part of a newsroom full of so much talent and heart. I have learned so much and I know that whatever I do next, my service at The Times will be an essential part of my career.”

Monday was her last day at the newspaper.

Two top editors at The Times, Julia Turner and Scott Kraft, will oversee the newsroom until an interim editor is named.

“Scott and I are now responsible for all editorial activities and have been advocating editorially in conversations with the company about the financial crisis we face,” Turner wrote in a memo to staff.

“With reports of layoffs affecting 20% ​​or more of the LA Times newsroom, we urge all parties to reach consensus to avoid a drastic measure that could threaten the newsroom’s ability to cover important news in our city and reporting across the country,” the spokesperson said. Democratic members of Congress wrote this in the letter on Monday. “We understand the need to balance the newspaper’s long-term financial stability with the need to support fair and adequate compensation for journalists.”


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