Norm Pearlstine, Patrick Soon-Shiong's choice to run the Los Angeles Times newsroom, has experience at the top of Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. In recent months he has been working quietly on the sixth floor of the Times building talking to staffers and preparing a plan for the transition from Tronc to Soon-Shiong's ownership.
According to today's story in the Times, Pearlstine advised Soon-Shiong to take his time selecting his new editor. They mutually decided that Pearlstine would hold the job for now, but not with interim in his title.
Soon-Shiong had offered the job to both Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, and Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, who are both LAT alumni. The Times story says that Soon-Shiong invited Baquet to his Brentwood home, to shoot baskets and talk about the paper. “I said we’ll play HORSE and if I win, you’re gonna have to stay,” Soon-Shiong says.
The LAT says that current executive editor Jim Kirk was offered another job at the paper but chose to leave. Chris Argentieri, general manager of The Times, will become chief operating officer of the California Times, the new corporate name for Soon-Shiong's media acquisitions. Jeffrey Light will remain publisher and editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Times says.
Pearlstine, at 75, is the oldest and the most journalistically accomplished editor ever appointed to run the LA Times.
He started in journalism in 1967 as a copy boy at the New York Times, a few months after earning his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He moved to the Wall Street Journal in 1968, where he worked for the next decade, including a stint in Los Angeles. He became executive editor of Forbes magazine in 1978, a job he held for two years. But, in 1980, he returned to the Journal, where he launched the paper’s Asian edition, served as managing editor from 1983 to 1991 and then as executive editor for a year.
After leaving the Journal in 1992, he worked to launch the magazine “Smart Money” for Dow Jones & Co. and Hearst Corp. He became editor in chief at Time Inc. in 1995, overseeing such publications as Time, People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly. That job brought him frequently to L.A. When he left in 2005, Time Inc. boasted more than 150 magazine titles.
“I’ve had more great jobs than anyone I know, so I’ve been very fortunate,” he said.
He then spent five years as chief content officer for Bloomberg L.P. and served as chairman of Bloomberg Businessweek after the company acquired that magazine. He returned to Time Inc. as vice chairman in 2016, but he retired a year later as the company, reeling from a loss of subscribers and advertisers, prepared for a sale.
“I’m lucky as hell to have this opportunity, and I feel confident that this is somewhere I think I can be helpful,” he says in the Times story.
Controversially, as the editor of Time Inc. in 2005 he turned over the subpoenaed notes of reporter Matthew Cooper to a federal grand jury hearing evidence on the identification of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Pearlstine left Time Inc. later that year, and in his 2007 book, “Off the Record: The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources,” Pearlstine "wrote that it was his most difficult decision in his career as an editor."
Soon-Shiong and Pearlstine spoke in the newsroom this morning.
Norm Pearlstine, right, addresses the newsroom for the first time. pic.twitter.com/PBID9F76NZ— Carolina A. Miranda (@cmonstah) June 18, 2018
And never fear: The Times will also continue to have a presence in downtown L.A., with a bureau near the Last Bookstore on Spring Street. https://t.co/3sssMOk60O— Laura J. Nelson 🦅 (@laura_nelson) June 18, 2018
Previously on LA Observed:
LA Observed Notes: Soon-Shiong era at LA Times begins
Soon-Shiong to LAT staff: 'In awe of your talent'