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Politics

New Union-Tribune Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong Writes Letter To Readers

Pharmaceuticals billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong waves as he arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, Jan. 10, 2017.
Associated Press
Pharmaceuticals billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong waves as he arrives in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, Jan. 10, 2017.
New Union-Tribune Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong Writes Letter To Readers
New Union-Tribune Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong Writes Letter To Readers GUESTS: Jeff Light,, editor, San Diego-Union Tribune

This week marks the beginning of a new era for the San Diego Union Tribune and the LA Times as biotech billionaire Patrick soon song becomes the owner of both papers today. He has already named a new executive elevator -- editor of the New York Times norm in Stein. It has been 10 years since the family so the Union Tribune in 2009 after 81 years of ownership. Both staff and readers who care about how this region is covered will be watching to see how this plays out. Here in the studio with this is Jeff light the editor of the San Diego Union Tribune. How much time has soon song sung has spent with the Union Tribune ? >> we have spent a lot of time together. It has only been a few months. It is not like I may close intimate of doctors soon song. We have spent any hours together. I feel heartened by his presence. He is a very engaging person. And a he has a very kind and inclusive vibe. He is easy to be around. >>> Tell us about why you think he bought the LA Times and the Union Tribune . >> I think I -- he has been clear about it. He is a remarkable guy who grew up in south Africa the son of Chinese immigrants. He has been a successful person. He tells the story of his childhood and what it was like to grow up as a minority under apartheid. And some of his own experience delivering newspapers, etc. Really the sense of to -- social justice is important motive for him. I think if you follow some of his more recent commentary, he is concerned about the phenomenon of fake news. He calls it the cancer of our time. And as a citizen of Los Angeles, he is concerned about the stability of the LA Times as a significant institution in that city. I think together those things form his motives. >>> We have a clip from the interview he did on NPR in which he talks about fake news being a cancer. Let's listen to that . >> I think the power of investigative reporting must be really enabled so that we have truth to speak to power but also truth in terms of inspiration and speaking for the people. >>> Do you see him investing more in investigative journalism or in viewing that and every day coverage more. >> He is somebody who both acknowledges the need for investment in the advantages of having a private company versus a public one in this particular space. At the same time, he does not want to just for money and. He wants to pursue these goals that have a social good but to stand the test of the marketplace as well. >>> He said no change in leadership you will continue to be an editor and no cuts to journalists. A relief to the people in the newsroom. What should readers look for. What kind of changes can we expect to see ? >> I think it is early being day one. There is a lot for Doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong and his organization to get their arms around. He has been quite articulate about his vision of serving the public good. His vision of truth telling and investigative journalism. I think those of the things we can look for. The other important aspect that Patrick Soon-Shiong 's character and his resources offer us is the sense of stability and the ability to build and grow and not be subject to the whims of the public markets or the latest fads in digital journalism. It is really a value-based way of looking at things. He really believes in the journalism that you and I believe in. >>> On the other hand, he also talks about rising to the challenge of the digital age. How might that affect the way that you put the news out? Speaking -- >> I think we put the news out will be affected and all sorts of ways. One of the disadvantages of changes of ownership we have had is the lack of investment in technology. I think the papers are a little behind. And Patrick Soon-Shiong is both an enthusiast and a visionary I think in visualization and different kinds of storytelling. He and his wife Michelle who is an accomplished person in her own right, have a big studio in the Culver City area. Clearly, we will see all sorts of innovation in that area. Again, the key investment is not in visualization or distribution. Although those things are important. It is in journalism and community focus. >>> Do you have any concerns that the UT is a smaller paper than the LA Times and it might be a smaller relation and some of our local coverage might not be as much of a priority for him? >> We are smaller. I am sure that if you had to prioritize baked a little some of those things would be gone. I get the sense, and my interactions with Patrick Soon-Shiong and his whole group to date has been just heartening. He is a inclusive collaborative person. Truthfully, the feeling is not -- I have been an -- to a number of his transactions. When we were bought by Tribune, that was very much we are purchasing you. I think from the start, San Diego was in a subordinate role. In that relationship. Although over time the influence of the company grew. But that is not at all the framework that Patrick Soon-Shiong has in mind here. They see us as part of a family. And are scrupulous to point out the investment even in things like the new building in El Segundo that will have all sorts of fantastic features. It will belong to the whole family. It might be a little far away from us but it is not that Los Angeles versus San Diego framework. >>> Thank you so much for filling us in. That is Jeff light who is the editor of the San Diego Union Tribune.

An immigrant who once bundled ink-fresh newspapers at a newspaper printing press took control of the San Diego Union-Tribune Monday, and promised in a letter to readers to fight fake news as if it were cancer.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a biotech billionaire who has dedicated most of his fortune to fighting cancer, on Monday will finalize his $500 million- plus purchase of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and some community newspapers.

His purchase of the Union-Tribune returned it to the control of a Californian nine years after an investment group bought it from the Copley family of San Diego. And it marked the end of 16 years of often-chaotic control of the L.A. Times, a 135-year-old institution, by the Tribune Company of Chicago.

Soon-Shiong wrote a letter to readers today, printed on page A10 of the U-T and page A7 of The Times.

"I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis,'' he wrote. "Institutions like The Times and the Union-Tribune are more vital than ever.''

Soon-Shiong said the Internet has sparked "an era of digitally- enabled disruptions which pose an existential threat to the traditional newspaper industry,'' and said the newspaper group will have to be run like a business. Then he added: "we will invest in the group's future.''

Soon-Shiong wrote that his first job was on the truck dock of the Port Elizabeth Evening Post newspaper in South Africa. "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,'' he wrote.

"Newspapers were not only in my blood, they also engaged my mind.''

Soon-Shiong said The Post's stories taught him "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.''

Soon-Shiong said he wants 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,'' he wrote.

"We view the publications we acquired as a quasi-public trust,'' Soon- Shiong wrote. "We understand they will be the voice and inspiration for our cities, our state, the nation and the world.''