The following letter was issued to LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune readers in Summer 2018, with an updated introduction in advance of Dr. Soon-Shiong's keynote remarks at PolicyWest.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, some 38 years ago, I felt at home. Here we have a global city where the possibilities are truly limitless. And any time you travel from LA, you are surely reminded of how what we do here is global in reach and resonance.
My family’s decision to purchase the Los Angeles Times was a deeply personal one, based in part on this belief: What we do here serves as a beacon far beyond the boundaries of LA, California, or even the United States.
That same belief is a big part of what has driven our work in precision medicine, cancer research, and biotechnology; in green energy and sustainable resource development; and in harnessing technology to engage, inspire, and educate.
Our city is filled with incredibly talented people and steeped in potential through its universities, entertainment companies, sporting events and teams, science and technology institutions, and more. This is a place the world looks to, time and again, for the ideas and advances that drive us forward.
For the moment, we feel enormously proud to have restored local ownership to the Los Angeles Times, where so many of the things that make our city great—and its challenges—are reported on and shared worldwide each and every day. I hope that you’ll read my letter to the staff, which I sent on the day the sale closed (June 18, 2018) to understand why this brings me so much pride and hope.
We have entered 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.
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.
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, have 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is the owner and executive chairman of the Los Angeles Times and chairman and CEO of NantWorks, as well as a physician, surgeon, researcher, philanthropist, and scientist.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.