There’s no shortage of stories these days about conflicts, suspensions or resignations of journalists or editors over the Israel-Hamas war. But this one has a twist that made it interesting to me. The topline story is that Kevin Merida, executive editor of the LA Times, is stepping down from his post after only three years. His departure is reportedly based on a dispute with the family of Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong over his decision to restrict the coverage of several reporters who signed an open letter condemning Israel’s response to the October 7th massacres and calling on publications to use terms like “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” to describe it.
Merida said that taking a public stand like this violated Times’ editorial policy and that a “fair-minded reader of the Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the organization is promoting any agenda.” The reporters who signed the letter were removed from any coverage of Gaza for at least three months.
Again, all of this is pretty standard as a kind of tussle we see in many newsrooms around the country where reporters push for a more engaged kind of news coverage or at least the right to publicly state their views on major issues of the day outside of that coverage. What’s different here is that it’s the editor who lost his job over it. The paper’s owners backed the reporters or at least refused to back Merida’s position.
To be clear, at least from what I can tell, Merida wasn’t fired. He and the family owners got into a dispute and couldn’t come to a compromise and he chose to step down over it. There was apparently even some discussion of the family selling the paper over it.