Here’s New LA Times Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong’s First Letter to Employees

“I will work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely on,” new owner tells newsroom

Last Updated: February 7, 2018 @ 10:37 PM

A day after billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong agreed to purchase the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the California News Group in a $500 million deal, Soon-Shiong addressed employees in an email later shared on Twitter by L.A. Times staffers.

Intended to reassure employees still edgy from months of turmoil that things are changing for the better, the letter emphasized the return to local ownership, and the role — as well as importance — of journalism.

As he has done elsewhere, Soon-Shiong referenced his childhood in Apartheid-era South Africa and his family’s eventual move to Los Angeles. “My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that most felt like home,” he said.

“As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa,” he continued, “I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society. As residents of Southern California, my family and I have seen the vital role that these publications play in binding our communities together.”

Alluding to recent newsroom drama — including a contentious relationship between LA Times staff and former editor-in-chief Lewis D’Vorkin, and a recent investigation that cleared publisher Ross Levinsohn of sexual harassment — the letter praised employees. “During the last several months, you’ve shown that despite many distractions, you continued to produce world-class journalism,” Soon-Shiong wrote.

“We will continue to embrace change, new technologies and different ways of distributing news and information,” he continued, but promised employees that he “will work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely on.”

While most LA Times staffers were silent on social media, those who commented expressed cautious optimism, including LA Times National Correspondent Matt Pearce, who tweeted, “I can tell you that this note, if backed up by action, will make a lot of people happy.”

Read the whole letter:

To the employees of The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and California News Group:

By now you may have heard the news that I have agreed to purchase The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and publications across the California News Group.
These publications have a long record of journalism excellence. Through the unique lens of Southern California, they have served our communities with distinction by daily searching for truth and by explaining our great state of California to the nation and world.

Returning The Times, the U-T and the California News Group to local ownership will give us a better chance to preserve their mission and independence.

It is often said that Southern California is the place where the world comes to see its future. It has welcomed generations of immigrants who worked hard, started new businesses and helped others do the same. My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that most felt like home.

Ultimately, this decision is deeply personal for me. As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society. As residents of Southern California, my family and I have seen the vital role that these publications play in binding our communities together.

This country, and Southern California, have given me unimaginable opportunity. This is where I deepened my education, built a family, found ways to contribute in medicine and science and was inspired through sports, entertainment and the arts. I am deeply grateful to this community and hope to make some measure of that gratitude known by supporting your work.

I have been a longtime admirer of your work. During the last several months, you’ve shown that despite many distractions, you continued to produce world-class journalism. I share your ambitions that The Times, the U-T and the California News Group have to be journalism enterprises that continue to thrive and prosper. We will continue to embrace change, new technologies and different ways of distributing news and information.

I want to assure you–everyone from the press room to the newsroom–that I will work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely upon.

I look forward to meeting many of you in the coming days and weeks, and helping you add to the long legacy of excellence that these publications have built.

I know that everyone will have many questions about the future. I hope to have some answers when we meet soon. In the meantime, please keep doing your stellar work and serving our devoted readers.

With respect and gratitude,
Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D.