Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine sent a staff memo Thursday night outlining what “long overdue” changes will be hitting the newspaper in the wake of an extended conversation about newsroom diversity.
“Thank you for your time yesterday as I talked about how we got to where we are, and how we plan to improve representation and cultural issues here at the Los Angeles Times. The masthead and I are committed to fighting the systemic racism that so many of you and our former colleagues have painfully described. I have read the #BlackAtLAT testimonials, and I am grateful for the effort put into them, but I also understand that listening must be paired with action,” he wrote, one day after an all-staff town hall during which he said he would not be stepping down upon receiving a letter of demands from the Los Angeles Times Guild Black Caucus.
Among the changes Pearlstine committed to were an overhaul of the Metpro program, the hiring of a masthead editor for talent and culture and setting up one-on-one meetings to address the demands from the Black Caucus letter.
He also said paper leadership would be setting up a meeting with the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, “taking immediate steps to make diversity in hiring and retention part of the management evaluation process” and making new diversity and inclusion training classes mandatory. There will be a company-wide diversity report and guidance to come on updates to the style guide for the use of words like “looters” and descriptors like “Black.”
Wednesday’s Zoom town hall came a day after the Black Caucus of the paper’s guild sent a letter to the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Pearlstine and managing editors Kimi Yoshino and Scott Kraft outlining a list of demands for a more representative newsroom. The letter was signed by 15 Black Caucus members and 183 other Guild members “in solidarity.” On social media, testimonies from current and former Black journalists were shared under the #BlackatLAT hashtag.
Numerous staffers expressed frustrations both on that call and in a 500-plus member newsroom Slack channel throughout the course of the meeting, according to messages reviewed by TheWrap. At one point in the meeting, top editors on the call — including Pearlstine, Yoshino, Kraft, deputy managing editors Julia Turner and Shelby Grad, and assistant managing editor Angel Rodriguez — apologized for failing to do better on hiring and retaining diverse staff members. Thursday night’s memo made repeated references to fixing the hiring and retention processes.
Pearlstine ended his memo, “These changes are long overdue, and they must be just a beginning. I know you are looking for actions, not words, and that we must act now. Thank you again for fighting for change and to make this a better institution.”