Kimi Yoshino, one of the top editors at the Los Angeles Times, is stepping down after 21 years to accept a new job as editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Banner, a deep-pocketed news upstart launched by Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum.
Yoshino’s departure from the Times makes the 50 year old the latest in a series of newsroom leaders to set sail for new horizons as the new regime takes shape under executive editor Kevin Merida. Her departure follows that of Norman Pearlstine, who stepped aside in October, and Sewell Chan, the Times editorial-page editor who is now editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune. Both Yoshino and Chan were contenders for the top job at the paper, which was awarded to Merida last June.
“I’m leaving the @latimes and taking on a new challenge in Baltimore,” the 21-year Times veteran announced in a goodbye tweet thread which drew well-wishes from Times staff and alum. Her new role was earlier reported in the Washington Post. “I’m excited to join Stewart Bainum as editor-in-chief of The Baltimore Banner, a digital, nonprofit news start-up.” Bainum, sunk $50 million of his own money into launching the Banner, after Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based newspaper chain that owns The Baltimore Sun, spurned a bid from Bainum himself in favor of an offer from the secretive, newsroom-gutting hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
Yoshino added: “Every city deserves better than what ‘vulture; hedge fund Alden Capital is doing to its newspapers across the country.” Alden Global Capital, which owns several papers in Southern California, surfaced in a Feb. 19 report in the Wall Street Journal in connection with a rumored sale of the Los Angeles Times, the veracity of which owner Patrick Soon-Schiong denied.
Yoshino is in many ways a cipher for the unceasing ups and downs that have gripped the Times newsroom in the years bracketing the hometown paper’s $500 million sale to biotech billionaire Soon-Schiong in 2018.
Already a very well-liked and respected manager in the newsroom, Yoshino attained the status of hero for a time in 2018, when she clashed with the paper’s top editor, Lewis D’Vorkin, over his effort to appease the Walt Disney Co., which was angry at Times coverage of the financial breaks given to it by the City of Anaheim.
Famously, Yoshino was whisked away from her desk and suspended as part of the newspaper’s investigation into the leak of audio recordings made by D’Vorkin. As the story goes, D’Vorkin suspected Yoshino was a source for an unflattering profile of him that had appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review on the day before her suspension. Then, days after D’Vorkin was pushed out amid the growing turmoil, Yoshino, triumphant, made a return to the newsroom to thunderous applause.
After Soon-Schiong bought the Times from Tribune Publishing in 2018, he tapped Pearlstine, the 78-year-old former Time and Wall Street Journal editor, to run it. Pearlstine promoted the popular Yoshino to the post of senior managing deputy editor. Two years later, Pearlstine announced he was stepping down in the face of new turmoil over ethical concerns, and Yoshino was one of two people tapped by her ex-boss to guide the transition in the role of managing editor.
When the sweepstakes began to find a new editor to lead the 140-year-old paper, Yoshino found she was out of favor<https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/la-times-editor-search/>. A group of nearly a dozen editors from sections across the newsroom went as far as to request in January that none of the current masthead editors, including Yoshino, be hired as Pearlstine’s replacement. “She is the status quo candidate,” one staffer told Los Angeles in February. “Status quo is not very popular here these days.” (A source close to Yoshino told Los Angeles in February that Yoshino never really wanted the job to begin with.)
Yoshino did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. But the California native told the Washington Post that it took “something very special to make me leave two places that I love.” She continued, “I’ve lived through—and survived—bad newspaper ownership and a bad boss. The L.A. Times still has work to do on its path toward sustainability, but it’s absolutely headed in the right direction . . . I can’t think of a more important challenge right now than figuring out a way to make local journalism sustainable.”