The Los Angeles Times has been around since 1881 and has survived enormous ups and downs over the past 142 years. But one thing remained constant: the LA Times could be depended on for trustworthy and timely reporting of the news. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, the 260-plus square mile suburbs of Los Angeles, my parents were loyal Times subscribers. The paper has enjoyed over a century of respect and popularity with its consumers and even detractors; until now. Impending doom seems to have struck the Times, with new reports of “brutal” layoffs and exodus of senior editors.
The Los Angeles-based newspaper started its downward slide in the late 2000s when it went through a series of calamities, including bankruptcy, ownership changes, an abnormally high attrition rate when it came to its editor and general staff, and with its biggest hiccup of moving from their historic headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles to a newer building in El Segundo which is located near the Los Angeles International Airport and giving the Times a new nickname of “The El Segundo Times.” The move came after the Times was purchased in 2018 by a South African billionaire and surgeon, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Fast-forward to today and the news that comes with the day brings reports of an institution in full panic and chaos mode. Tuesday’s big news was that the paper will be shedding a large percentage of the newsroom staff and editors (115 people to be laid off), and two of the four remaining senior editors (ironically they came from BuzzFeed) have called it quits. This comes just a few weeks after Executive Editor Kevin Merida abruptly left, citing differences with the paper’s owner.
Earlier this month, Kevin Merida suddenly announced that he was departing his post as executive editor after less than three years on the job. Then, news of forthcoming mass layoffs ensued, prompting the employee’s union to stage a historic one-day walk out on Friday. The LAT’s Meg James reported last week that management could slash upwards of 20% of the newsroom — or roughly 100 positions — with the looming layoffs, though a person familiar with the matter warned to me on Monday that it could ultimately end up being “much worse” than that.
One of the two remaining managing editors, Julia Turner, tried to reassure the newsroom staff of a continuing operation, but at the same time, not sugarcoating the possibly grim future. In an email to employees, Turner says:
“Scott [Kraft] and I are now responsible for all editorial operations, and we’re advocating for editorial interests in conversations with the company about the financial crisis we face.”
No one seems to truly know what is going on, or what will come, as several employees are pointing their fingers or at the very least offering criticism at the owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. An anonymous employee stated:
“We have a billionaire who doesn’t understand media and thinks he can cut his way to success…”
The critique of the leadership does not come without merit. The Times has lost roughly $30 million annually since he took over with his activist daughter, Nika Soon-Shiong. The Times is shedding editorial staff and general newsroom staff at an extremely concerning rate, whether by being laid off or outright quitting; the media giant has a historic attrition rate. But more to the point, the LA Times is losing big to its competition. The paper’s year-over-year digital traffic, much of which is from paying subscribers, was down 38 percent in November 2023, a staggering hit.
Well, that’s not good. Traffic to news sites in November, per ComScore. pic.twitter.com/yzCcDPAKVF
— Paul Farhi (@farhip) December 19, 2023
As our Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar wrote:
This year-over-year decline in digital/mobile traffic for the L.A. Times is massive, and seeing the number in comparison to outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times puts it into perspective. It’s more difficult to get advertisers when you’re losing readers, and a 38 percent decline in digital traffic for a publication where the overwhelming majority of its pieces are for subscribers only is a very bad development. It’s also interesting that RedState’s traffic is in the same universe as the Los Angeles Times’ despite having a very small fraction of the resources (equipment, writers) the LAT has.
That is their sole purpose in life, to report the news and topics of interest. The same goes for RedState, but there are some key differences between RedState and the Times: our contributor staff is a fraction of the size of the Times, as was pointed out; many of our contributors have other jobs in addition to writing here, and we do this out of love of country and the truth. We don’t get paid exorbitant salaries or get fame or fortune like they do. Yet we beat them at the very game they were a huge part of creating, every day.
Besides the competition, the Times has another serious problem; they have lost touch with reality and have taken a deep dive into being just another partisan hack of the left. Decades ago, the Times used to have a solid reputation for being truly independent in the face of politics, hitting the right AND the left equally across the board. The same cannot be said of the Times anymore, as they have become a stalwart member of the huge media giant that coordinates with, supports, defends, and runs cover for the leftist political and ideological machine.
For example, as Van Laar covered earlier Tuesday, LA Times had the nerve to endorse LA’s District Attorney George Gascon for his re-election. As she pointed out, Gascon has never once in his professional time as a prosecutor tried a felony case in court, is a far-left DA who refuses to use maximum punishments, will not use weapon enhancements in most cases, and is one of the most soft-on-crime DA’s in the nation. With property and retail theft and more running rampant in LA County, he continues to double down on his horrible policies and the Times thinks he’s deserving of a second term.
Another prime example of tone deafness and ignorance in media reporting is the editorial penned by Times editor Paul Thornton, which my colleague Mike Miller properly skewered, asking “very nicely” for those Californians leaving the state for better, safer, and cheaper places to live, to not speak ill of the state. Even while admitting the real reason why people are leaving, the words and tone of Thornton and the rest of the Times staff are the perfect example of why the former paper giant is imploding on itself.
All eyes are on the Times, as journalists around the country look at what seems to be an ugly and bloody fall from power and influence. We are watching as the purge of staff and the mass exodus of higher-ups all leave the institution. I’m no expert, but I surmise that they are in deep trouble and this is just the beginning of an inevitable end to a once great media giant, at the very least, they will never be the same.