Los Angeles Times hires ESPN's Kevin Merida as new editor

This image released by ESPN shows Kevin Merida in Bristol, Conn., on Jan. 12, 2016. The Los Angeles Times said Merida will be its new executive editor. Merida has run ESPN's The Undefeated site, which deals with issues on race and culture along with sports. He's had extensive newspaper experience, including 22 years at The Washington Post. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images via AP)
This image released by ESPN shows Kevin Merida in Bristol, Conn., on Jan. 12, 2016. The Los Angeles Times said Merida will be its new executive editor. Merida has run ESPN's The Undefeated site, which deals with issues on race and culture along with sports. He's had extensive newspaper experience, including 22 years at The Washington Post. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images via AP) (2016, ESPN Inc.)

NEW YORKThe Los Angeles Times on Monday said that Kevin Merida, who built ESPN's The Undefeated into a multi-media presence and spent a lengthy career in newspapers before that, will be its new executive editor.

Merida, 64, is being challenged by the newspaper's owners, Patrick and Michele Soon-Shiong, to speed its transition into a digital news leader.

“Kevin possesses a clear understanding of the rigor necessary for independent journalism and how to translate that journalism to multiple platforms," the newspaper's owners said in a statement. “He also shares our passion for the unique opportunity we have to build the L.A. Times into a media enterprise with a distinct West Coast point of view.”

Merida is moving to Los Angeles from Washington, where he spent 22 years at the Washington Post before joining ESPN in 2015. He also worked at the Dallas Morning News and Milwaukee Journal. The Post is searching for its own new leader following the retirement of Marty Baron.

Merida replaces Norman Pearlstine, who stepped down late last year.

The Times chose a Black editor as its leader following a period where the newspaper and other journalistic institutions have taken tough looks at their own diversity in both staffing and in who and what they cover. Last September, the newspaper published a lengthy apology for having “a blind spot, at worst an outright hostility” toward Los Angeles' nonwhite population.

The newspaper said then that 38% of its editorial journalists were journalists of color, and that “we know that is not nearly good enough.”

Merida was not made available for an interview. He said in a statement that he will bring “an open heart, a penchant for experimentation and a fiercely competitive spirit” to the job.