The Texas Tribune on Thursday named Sewell Chan, a top editor at The Los Angeles Times, as its new editor in chief.
Mr. Chan, 43, is the editorial page editor at The Los Angeles Times, overseeing its editorial board and opinion section. He will move to Austin, where The Tribune is based, in September and start Oct. 18.
“The decision was really one about the potential and opportunity in working at a very different kind of institution in a very different state and, yes, the chance to lead an organization, which I think will be really exciting,” Mr. Chan said in an interview.
Four months ago, two of The Tribune’s leaders — the editorial director, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, and the chief product officer, Millie Tran — resigned after a year on the job. Their decisions to leave came as a surprise to The Tribune’s chief executive, Evan Smith.
Mr. Chan, a native of New York City, started his career at The Washington Post. In 2004, he joined The New York Times, where he worked as a metro reporter, Washington correspondent, deputy opinion editor and international news editor.
He joined The Los Angeles Times as a deputy managing editor in 2018 and became the editorial page editor last year. On his watch, Robert Greene won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of editorials on the criminal justice system. Mr. Chan was one of the internal candidates to become the newsroom leader of The Los Angeles Times after its executive editor, Norman Pearlstine, departed last year. The job went to Kevin Merida in May.
The Tribune, a nonprofit digital publication known for its rigorous coverage of politics and policymaking in the Lone Star State, was started in 2009. Mr. Chan said he was drawn to its civic mission and base of support “across political divides, geographical divides, across different racial and ethnic communities.” He added that The Tribune’s nonprofit structure was “a major part of the solution” for a news media industry struggling to find sustainable streams of revenue.
“I’m down on chains and on newspapers owned by private equity or hedge funds, because I think that local investment, local commitment to these regional news brands is so important to the mission and also to gaining and regaining the trust of readers,” he said.
Mr. Chan said The Tribune would remain an important publication into the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 presidential election.
“Every major force in America, from climate to technology to regulation to the future of voting rights and reproductive rights, it all converges in Texas,” he said.
Mr. Smith, who helped found The Tribune after two decades at Texas Monthly, said in an interview that Mr. Chan had “an extraordinary sense of what the news is and should be.”
“He is an extraordinarily gentle and empathetic and collaborative person, and after a year and a half of news that has had a terrible toll on all of us, I think we can all benefit from being in recovery mode, and I think Sewell’s personality is ideally suited to that,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith added that The Tribune had more than four million unique visitors to its site on average this year, more than double the audience before the pandemic.