Patrick Soon-Shiong, the new owner of the Los Angeles Times, has selected industry stalwart Norman Pearlstine as his executive editor, hoping to invigorate the flagship California publication that has been beset in recent years by repeated leadership changes and staff cuts.
It sounds like Pearlstine, who through a 50-year career worked at the helm of Time Inc., and stints atop mastheads at Forbes, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, has a mission to bring traditional journalism values to the venerable paper, in an age when when many publications have veered away from traditional reporting, with “reporters” mostly aggregating or re-writing somebody else’s story, focused more on amassing Twitter followers than breaking real news.
Pearlstine, whose wife Jane Boon has a Ph.D in industrial engineering, is clearly old school; he has fewer than 200 Twitter followers (that’s ticking up with the new announcement but his bio still reads “Time Inc. Vice Chair.”
Soon-Shiong, a medical doctor turned businessman, has made clear he wants to hire new reporters, saying, “My quest is to get the best talent.”
Announcing the appointment, the new LA Times owner said, “Not only does he have amazing experience with the full knowledge of how a newsroom runs — but he’s amazingly modern and forward-looking.”
“There’s no agenda, other than to make this the best journalistic institution. We’re lucky to be able to capture him.” If “capture” is a strange verb to describe hiring an editor, it perhaps conveys the high esteem in which the industry holds a fellow who has led the top media organizations in the world.
The 75-year-old Pearlstine, who is coming out of retirement to take the job, is apparently the oldest person in recent memory to be named editor of a major newspaper. Although he is a New York media titan, Pearlstine is emphasizing his deep ties to LA.
“I’ve had two stints in my past where I reported from Los Angeles,” he told the New York Post. “I don’t feel it’s alien to me. When I was running editorial at Time Inc. I was supervising Time and People and Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated. There were times when I’d spend a quarter of the year in Los Angeles.”
After enduring three editors in just one year, LA Times scribes, who have met with Pearlstine in recent weeks greeted his selection enthusiastically.
National reporter Matt Pearce, has said that in conversations with reporters and editors Pearlstine demonstrated ”a pretty granular grasp of the newsroom’s internal dynamics.”
“People like him,” Pearce explained. “He’s met with a ton of us behind the scenes and has come off as smart and approachable.”
Pearce and Pearlstine did not respond to requests for comment.