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LA Times shaken by a summer of turmoil and scandals

By Meg James and Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

On a Friday night last month, Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine sent a short email to the newsroom, announcing sports columnist Arash Markazi had resigned.

The columnist had copied information contained in seven stories from other sources, an internal investigation found. Pearlstine said "for the record" clarifications were added to each of the articles.

But there was more to the story. For a year and a half, veteran sports writers had been roiled by Markazi's penchant for lifting prose from press releases and other sources, his cozy relations with publicists and his social media posts that extolled businesses, including a Las Vegas luxury hotel.

Markazi's departure was the latest in a series of scandals that has engulfed the newsroom and led to an extraordinary reshuffling atop The Times. Since early last year, six prominent editors have been either pushed out, demoted or had responsibilities reduced because of ethical lapses, bullying behavior or other failures of management.

The disciplinary actions have not quelled the furor in a newsroom already facing a painful self-examination over race. Pearlstine, under fire, acknowledged mistakes and defended his record. He's not stepping down but said he hoped to soon accelerate succession planning with the paper's owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

"Although the world has changed in the last six months, my values remain the same," Pearlstine said. "I still believe that I'm a principled editor, always trying to do what's best. That's why I'm here."

 

In 2018, Pearlstine went from leading the search for the new L.A. Times leader to becoming the executive editor himself. The 77-year-old newsman - a former top editor of Time Inc., the Wall Street Journal and Forbes and a senior executive at Bloomberg News - had the gravitas that Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan, were looking for after they purchased The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune for $500 million. Pearlstine "came out of retirement," he said, to lead the revival.

He'd be a transitional figure, a seasoned pro who could stabilize the ship and groom a new generation of leaders. But his effort to rebuild The Times, including recruiting high-level editors, replenishing the ranks and revamping the paper's dated technologies, has been hampered by newsroom turmoil.

Soon-Shiong expressed support for Pearlstine.

"I was completely befuddled by the acrimony that's been launched at Norm, especially at this stage in his career, where he should be lauded for his contributions to American journalism," Soon-Shiong said. "I felt he was so valuable to our organization."

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