Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has appointed Terry Tang, editor of the editorial page, as the paper’s executive editor on an interim basis.
Tang, whose appointment takes effect immediately, becomes the first female editor in the paper’s 142-year history.
Soon-Shiong moved quickly to name the new leader to settle a newsroom roiled by substantial layoffs, a one-day strike and the loss of three top editors in the past two weeks. In turning to Tang, a respected journalist who earlier in her career worked at the New York Times, Soon-Shiong selected a leader with whom he had already established trust.
Earlier this week, The Times laid off more than 115 journalists to cut costs to reduce tens of millions of dollars in losses the paper has suffered since the Soon-Shiong family acquired the organization in 2018 for $500 million.
“I deeply appreciate the work you all do across the organization, and am excited as we transition to new editorial leadership with Terry,” Soon-Shiong said on Thursday in a note to the staff. “We are committed to important public service journalism that our community relies on while accelerating new, novel approaches. We will execute decisively to engage new audiences. Today’s announcement begins that implementation.”
Tang will continue to oversee the editorial page, working with Deputy Editorial Page Editor Mariel Garza, who leads the editorial board; and Deputy Op-Ed Editor Susan Brenneman, for op-ed, Soon-Shiong said.
Tang will appoint a managing editor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.
Tang, 65, has led the Opinion section for nearly two years. She joined The Times in 2019 as deputy Op-Ed editor after working two years at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she served as director of publications and editorial. Before that, she worked at the New York Times for 20 years in a variety of roles in opinion and on the news side of the operation. Earlier in her career she worked at the Seattle Times and as a reporter at the Seattle Weekly.
“Many of you have already had an opportunity to work with Terry,” Soon-Shiong said. “I have worked with Terry in her capacity leading LA Times Opinion over the past two years. She has consistently impressed me with her passion for the important role journalism plays in our lives and with her love of Southern California, where she grew up.”
Soon-Shiong has praised the Opinion section since Tang took over.
In Thursday’s statement, he said that she “has shown tremendous leadership in her job with our Opinion team, finding ways to engage readers with the most urgent issues of the day. Under her, Opinion has exemplified the critical role that the LA Times’ voice plays — to our city, and to the world — in bringing attention to issues that matter most, especially for those whose voices are often unheard.”
Tang graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and she earned her law degree from the New York University School of Law. She served as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in the early 1990s.
Her family immigrated to Los Angeles from Taiwan, and she grew up in Gardena.
Soon-Shiong has said that he believes The Times has a strong future, despite losing more than 20% of its newsroom in the layoffs.
“The decision to reduce our headcount was difficult for us all, but we are committed to our mission as a thriving pillar of democracy,” Soon-Shiong said in the note to staff members. “A vibrant future for the LA Times, where this organization is self-sustaining and capable of growth, requires new approaches to better engage with our readers and build new audiences.”
In interviews with The Times, Soon-Shiong has conveyed deep frustration with past leadership and its focus on building the Los Angeles Times Studios with video and podcast initiatives in an effort to reach new audiences.
Soon-Shiong has said he grew dissatisfied last fall with former Executive Editor Kevin Merida, who departed this month, and several high-ranking editors that Merida put in place.
Layoffs this week and last month have hollowed out the Studios and video teams. The paper also made deep cuts to the Washington bureau and several veteran award-winning photographers.
Merida has said that he left the paper over disagreements with Soon-Shiong over his role as top editor, strategy, as well as the size of the impending layoffs. Managing editor Sara Yasin resigned this week, joining another top editor, Shani Hilton, who stepped down last week.
In his note, Soon-Shiong thanked the newsroom’s leadership team for its work over the past few weeks.
“We still have work to do to reorganize while we continue investing for our future,” he added. “We are the most important news organization in the West and together we will build and thrive as a sustainable news media platform. I am committed to doing so — with urgency.”