Kevin Merida, executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, will be the speaker at the 54th Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture at UC Riverside. The May 9 lecture will be in person, on campus for the first time in three years.
Merida, 66, took the helm of the largest newsgathering organization in the West in June 2021 and oversees the Times newsroom, as well as Times Community News and Los Angeles Times en Español.
He has presided over the Times during a time of resurgence for the 141-year-old newspaper, beginning with its 2018 purchase by the billionaire medical technology entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong. The two have declared an ambition to “redefine the American newspaper,” largely through expanding the Times’ digital footprint.
Merida has called the Times “a brave, modern media company.”
“I want to be the most exciting, innovative media company that exists anchored out in California, which is a country unto itself,” Merida said in an interview with CNN. If the Times can become “central to your lives,” he said, “we can become irresistible.”
Prior to 2018, the Times had struggled under a revolving door of ownership, most notably by The Tribune Company. Today, there are more than 40 million unique visitors to the Times web site each month, a combined print and online weekly readership of 4.4 million, and the staff has grown by 20% during Soon-Shiong’s tenure.
The advent of Merida's tenure was considered a big score for Soon-Shiong and the Times, and his selection was hailed throughout the media industry.
Merida came to the Times after serving as a senior vice president at ESPN and editor-in-chief of the Undefeated, a multimedia platform he launched in 2016 that explores the intersections of race, sports, and culture. The platform features award-winning journalism to documentaries and television specials, from albums and music videos to live events, digital talk shows, and two bestselling children’s books.
During his tenure at ESPN, he also oversaw the investigative/news enterprise unit, the television shows “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” and chaired ESPN’s editorial board.
Before joining ESPN, Merida spent 22 years at The Washington Post as a congressional correspondent, national political reporter, longform feature writer, magazine columnist and senior editor. During his tenure as managing editor, he helped lead the Post to four Pulitzer Prizes.
From 1983 to 1993, Merida worked at The Dallas Morning News as a special projects reporter, local political writer, national correspondent based in Washington, White House correspondent covering the George H.W. Bush presidency, and assistant managing editor in charge of foreign and national news coverage. In 1990, Merida was part of a Morning News team that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in explanatory journalism for a special report on the world’s “hidden wars.” Merida began his career at the Milwaukee Journal, where he worked from 1979 to 1983 as a general assignment reporter.
Merida is co-author of “Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas” and the bestselling “Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.” He is a contributor to and editor of the anthology, “Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril,” based on an award-winning Washington Post series he led.
Merida’s honors include being named Journalist of the Year in 2000 by the National Association of Black Journalists, or NABJ, receiving the Missouri Honors Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism in 2018, and receiving NABJ’s Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
The Hays Press-Enterprise Lecture Series was established in 1966 by the late Howard H (Tim) Hays, then editor of The Press-Enterprise, in collaboration with the University of California, Riverside. Hays spent 51 years at The Press-Enterprise including — later — as owner and publisher for the newspaper. He was a leader in establishing a University of California campus in Riverside. In 1997, his son Tom Hays endowed the lecture and the Hays name was added to the title in honor of Tim Hays. Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corporation, former owner of The Press-Enterprise, has provided generous support for the series.
Over the pandemic, journalists Soledad O’Brien of CNN and Nikole-Hannah Jones of The New York Times were hosted via Zoom. Past lecturers also include Washington Post editors Marty Baron and Ben Bradlee; syndicated columnist George F. Will, and Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.
The event will be at 6 p.m. on May 9 at the University Theatre, and is open to the entire campus community and to the public. Daryle Williams, the dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, will emcee the event, and School of Education Dean Joi Spencer will moderate a Q&A session.