Why is Billionaire Investor Patrick Soon-Shiong Buying LA Times, and What Will it Mean for the Newsroom?
Billionaire biotech investor and physician Patrick Soon-Shiong is buying the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune in a $500 million deal.
Associate professor Steve Davis teaches magazine, newspaper and online journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Davis says Soon-Shiong’s limited history in journalism makes it hard to identify his motivation for this purchase, and what the future might hold for these newsrooms.
“We know the seller’s motivation, but not the buyer’s. The buyer says the right things – journalism is a public trust – but any journalist would tell you it’s what we do that matters, not what we say, and we don’t know if what Patrick Soon-Shiong says and what he will do will match. Nor do we know his management style. Is he hands on or an activist? Or would he act to put the best people in place and let them go to work? Journalism and journalists thrive on independence, so their preference would be obvious. But Soon-Shiong does not have much of a history in journalism, so it’s hard to hazard a guess as to the answer to this critical question.
“Newsrooms also thrive on a steady hand and a steady course. One could not imagine a more unsettled one than in the past several months with problems ranging from shaky business practices (Disney) to inappropriate behavior at the highest levels by male leadership.
“Some people look at this latest news, then, and shrug, saying ‘Hey, could it get worse?’ It can always get worse.”
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