Merida had been seen as a leading candidate to lead the Times newsroom following a five-month search. He’ll succeed Norman Pearlstine, who stepped down in December.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make this the greatest media outlet for the people of California, of L.A. — and beyond,” Merida said in an interview with the Times. “I see nothing but opportunity. I think this can be the most innovative media company in the country.”
Merida will start in June.
The Times, owned by Patrick and Michele Soon-Shiong, has endured years of turmoil, as it has faced the challenge of transitioning to digital, with its subscriber base far behind The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Covid-19 pandemic only added to advertising woes, and the Times received a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Still, the Times has won three Pulitzer prizes since the Soon-Shiongs acquired the publication in 2018 from Tronc, the successor to Tribune Publishing.
Before joining ESPN in 2015, Merida worked at The Washington Post, eventually being elevated to managing editor in 2013. He also was seen as a potential successor to Marty Baron, who stepped down as executive editor of the Post earlier this year. The publication has yet to name a permanent replacement.
Merida, who is Black, will be the third person of color to lead the Times, after Dean Baquet and Davan Maharaj. Last year, Patrick Soon-Shiong outlined plans for diversifying the Times newsroom, including a series on the papers coverage of nonwhite communities and of its treatment of newsroom employees of color.
In picking Merida, the Times also is again reaching outside California for a newsroom leader. Merida grew up in Washington, D.C., and also has worked for newspapers in Dallas and Milwaukee. He and his wife have two sons, both in entertainment, who live in Los Angeles.