Biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is the new owner of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Below is a letter to readers that appeared as a full-page ad in Sunday’s newspapers:
Today marks a new era for the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and publications across the California News Group. My family and I are truly honored and privileged to assume the mantle of these storied institutions of democracy. To me, this is the culmination of an immigrant’s American Dream.
From today, our important work protecting and building on a rich history of independent journalism begins — with a sense of urgency and purpose.
I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis. Institutions like The Times and the Union-Tribune are more vital than ever. They must be bastions of editorial integrity and independence if they are to protect our democracy and provide an antidote to disinformation. We will continue our papers’ dedication to truth, integrity, journalistic independence, and storytelling that engages, informs, educates and inspires with care and compassion.
In an era of digitally enabled disruptions which pose an existential threat to the traditional newspaper industry, the California News Group must be run as a business in order to grow and thrive, never losing sight of the needs and interests of our readers. As a private, locally owned enterprise, we will invest in the group’s future. While ad-supported print publications will continue to feel the pressures occasioned by the digital era, we are confident that our print products will remain viable and vital. This is especially true for those readers who, like myself, still enjoy the tactile and leisurely experience of a physical newspaper. Yet we are impatient and ambitious when it comes to introducing new products that will inform and delight local and global audiences.
Many of you may wonder why we bought these publications. The decision is deeply personal. America and, more particularly, Southern California, has given me unimaginable opportunities. Here is where I deepened my education, built a family, found ways to contribute to advances in medicine and science, and took inspiration from sports, entertainment and the arts. I grew up in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the son of a working-class shopkeeper.
My parents had fled southern China during World War II after the Japanese occupied their ancestral homes. When I was 14 years old, I began earning money to fund my college education by distributing copies of the Evening Post newspaper.
I still recall the sounds and smells of the printing presses as the first papers rolled off the conveyor belt. I would grab as many as 800 copies from an ink-stained pressman, handing them off to my cadre of “runners” who would then deliver them to local businesses and residences.
Newspapers were not only in my blood, they also engaged my mind. Reading the Post’s headlines and stories, I learned what it meant to grow up “non-white” under apartheid. I came to understand the evil consequences of racism and discrimination. I began to appreciate the essential role journalism plays in fostering and sustaining democracy and free societies.
We purchased the California News Group because we want to preserve the integrity, honesty and fairness we’ve observed in our decades as avid readers of the Los Angeles Times. My family and I fervently believe that The Times, the Union-Tribune and our other titles must continue to serve as beacons of truth, hope and inspiration binding our communities.
We view the publications we acquired as a quasi-public trust. We understand they will be the voice and inspiration for our cities, our state, the nation and the world.
We also understand the importance of editorial integrity and independence. We share our commitment to both with the talented journalists at our publications. They are our lifeblood.
I grew up believing the best newspapers are the voice of the people. None of my personal success has changed that belief.
We are grateful for the opportunity to serve you. The California News Group will continue to play its pivotal role in our communities, from Los Angeles to San Diego, projecting out to the world. This region is an incubator for change, innovation and discovery, and we are deeply committed to telling its stories.
When I came to Los Angeles, decades ago, I could not imagine the opportunities this region and this country would provide for me. My family and I are deeply grateful for this opportunity to support our institutions and to continue this vital mission.
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong