Members of The Times’ 2020 politics team receive promotions, reassignments
Sent on behalf of Managing Editor Scott Kraft and Deputy Managing Editor Shani Hilton:
After spending two years covering the presidential campaign, the California-based members of the 2020 national politics team are taking on both old and new assignments across the newsroom.
Mark Z. Barabak
We are pleased to announce that Mark Z. Barabak has been promoted to columnist. In his new role, he will focus on politics, personalities and political trends in California and throughout the West.
Barabak is one of California’s — and the country’s — top political journalists. His sterling prose, and his illuminating and fun Q&As, have long been a bright spot in the L.A. Times. As every reporter who has written about politics knows, he also has a well-deserved reputation as a generous colleague whose depth of knowledge is evident even in many pieces that don’t carry his byline.
Barabak, a California native, came to The Times in February 1997 and has focused on covering state and national politics, first from Los Angeles and then, since 2002, from his base in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He has covered campaigns and elections in 49 of the 50 states — all but Rhode Island — including 11 presidential contests and countless mayoral, gubernatorial, congressional and U.S. Senate races as well as California’s historic 2003 gubernatorial recall.
Barabak wrote his first political article at age 16, for his high school newspaper, profiling Lionel J. Wilson, who went on to become Oakland’s first Black mayor. In addition to campaign coverage, he has also reported from the White House and Capitol Hill, during the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. Today, he cuts a distinctive figure in the world of political writers — because of his work and his regular personal appearances as a speaker and interlocutor, of course, but also for that ever-present pencil he carries above his ear.
When he’s not writing about politics, Barabak can be found in the Sierra Nevada, strapped to either a backpack or snowboard, depending on the season.
Staff writer Melanie Mason has moved into the role of L.A.-based national political correspondent, focusing on the campaigns, constituencies and issues of this turbulent political moment. In the 2020 campaign, Mason’s coverage included a particular emphasis on the candidacy of Vice President Kamala Harris, and she helped spearhead the multipart Hometown project on the America that presidential hopefuls see from their front doors.
In her new assignment, Mason will continue to report across the country on the political stories most relevant to California and national audiences.
Mason has been with The Times for 10 years. She has worked in two bureaus: Washington, where she was on the money and politics beat, and Sacramento, where she reported on the Legislature, the #MeToo movement and the 2018 governor’s race. She has covered three presidential campaigns.
While covering the 2020 campaign, staff writer Tyrone Beason said, his explorations of other people’s lives — their hopes, frustrations, fears and outrage — made him think of his own lifelong struggle as a Black man to make sense of the gap between this country’s promise of tolerance and equality and the injustices he captured in his stories.
Inspired by his own reckoning with America, Beason is embarking on a more personal reporting project called “My Country.” He’ll be spending this year traveling California and the country to show our readers why some people, including Beason himself, at times feel estranged from America, why some cling to its past and what others are doing to make it more open and just.
The stories will explore the different ways Americans are wrestling with the enduring questions of who belongs here and who doesn’t, and how we treat each other across our differences.
Staff writer Seema Mehta will focus on state politics and statewide races, in coordination with the Sacramento bureau, as well as stories examining the intersection of federal politics and policy from a California perspective.
Mehta, who has covered four presidential campaigns and multiple races in California, spent much of the 2020 campaign covering Midwestern voters, writing about California’s donors and spending an inordinate amount of time in Iowa, where her husband is convinced she has a second family.
In addition to covering candidates and voters, she wrote off-the-trail features, including Column Ones about a spice merchant who became President Trump’s biggest Facebook rival and the mispronunciation of Kamala Harris’ name.
Millie Quan was in charge of our 24/7 campaign coverage, working with a team of reporters and editors around the country and coordinating with The Times’ Washington bureau to produce a steady stream of analyses, profiles and 2020 enterprise pieces as well as our daily political report, online and in print. The result was a team that punched far above its weight, even as the political season became stranger and stranger and the election extended into overtime.
We’re happy to say that she will be working on enterprise projects across the newsroom while editing a team of national and state political reporters and columnist, with an eye to connecting national politics back to California and the West.
Quan joined The Times in 1998, and during that time, she oversaw the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential campaign and recount, worked as a national assignment editor focusing on enterprise, was a Column One editor and oversaw the 2018 midterm elections.
Rebecca Bryant, who worked on the campaign team as an assistant editor, returns to a temporary editing assignment with the D.C. bureau, while remaining based in Los Angeles. With an adept and steady hand, Bryant helped conceptualize and edit 2020 enterprise stories such as Latinos trying to combat disinformation, how QAnon took root in politics, voter suppression, disinformation about mail-in voting and Trump’s touting of the racist “racehorse theory.”
She was key to assigning stories to help readers make sense of the policy proposals from the more than two dozen hopefuls who cycled through the Democratic primary contest.
Before joining the 2020 team, Bryant worked as an assistant editor on the 2018 midterm election staff and on the National/Foreign desk.
Staff writer Matt Pearce is joining Calendar to cover internet culture and podcasting. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Pearce tailed a brigade of Democratic primary candidates across Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. At the Iowa State Fair, a down-on-his-luck Jay Inslee offered Pearce a corn dog shortly before dropping out of the race, but his climate policies lived on in the rest of the field.
Before joining the politics team, Pearce worked on the National desk, where he covered major stories including Hurricane Harvey’s assault on Texas; the uprising in Ferguson, Mo., over the police killing of Michael Brown; and the overdose death of Prince in Minnesota. In 2016, he broke the story of how workers at Donald Trump’s golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes accused him of trying to fire women who weren’t pretty enough.
He likes to tweet.
And, as previously announced, Michael Finnegan is back on Metro covering federal courts; Melissa Gomez is on Metro reporting on youth culture issues; and Arit John has joined the Features desk as a reporter.