SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since 1871, the Salt Lake Tribune will stop offering a daily printed newspaper as they shift to a single weekly publication starting in 2021.
In a major announcement Monday afternoon, Tribune board members alerted staff to the transition, followed by a public announcement on the non-profit news outlet's online platform.
“Our readers will be losing something, many of them, that they’ve had for years,” Tribune interim editor David Noyce said. “It’s the end of an era.”
Noyce said the decision followed years of declining print revenue and the impending dissolution of Utah Media Group — a 68-year partnership between the Tribune and Deseret News which allowed the two competing newspapers to corroborate on producing, printing, distributing and providing advertising.
“As readers have noticed, our print product has been getting smaller through the years. Our number of pages, daily pages, has declined,” Noyce said. “It’s not surprising, given the state of the newspaper industry right now, but we believe we’re making a move that will actually make our journalism better and more sustainable.”
The Tribune became a nonprofit last year. It had also started requiring subscriptions for full access to its web articles in recent years, as many other daily newspapers across the country have also done in the transition to more digital news consumption.
According to the Tribune, both outlets independently decided that the partnership — a "joint operating agreement — would expire Dec. 31, 2020.
Once the partnership ends, and Utah Media Group is no more, the shared West Valley City printing and distribution center will no longer be used — leading to the loss of 160 associated jobs, including press operators, carriers and other employees.
Deseret News has not announced how it plans to move forward, but said it will announce some "future plans and product strategies" Tuesday. The Latter-day Saint Church-owned paper and the Tribune's longstanding competitor included in its announcement of the print partnership disbanding that 18 of its employees have been or will be let go. The majority are from its visual editing and sales departments, but it also included six journalists from three departments.
The Tribune’s board of directors sent a notice to their employees stating layoffs were not anticipated for the 65-person staff. However, employees may be "redeployed" to better serve the company as changes are being made.
“We need people to take up other parts of our operation,” Noyce said. “[To] continue to bolster our digital side and then possibly take on new positions.”
“We’ll be making our own ads for our print product and gathering obituaries, all of these different things that we’ve usually shared with Utah Media Group. Now those will be gone, so we’re going to have to redeploy people,” he continued.
Noyce believes the new weekly model will allow the nonprofit to make more money that they can reinvest into their journalism.
Breaking news will not be included in the weekly publication, although readers will still be able to receive breaking news through the online platform. The weekly edition instead will shift toward more enterprise reporting and in-depth, investigative pieces.
“It will be a robust product. Hopefully, it will have a shelf life for days like some magazines have had for years,” Noyce said. “I’m hoping [readers] will see the proof will be in the product, and they’ll look at the product and say, ‘This is worth having. I still want this.’”
“After they get the tears over with, and I share those tears, I think they’re going to be excited about the print product they receive,” Noyce continued. “How it’s delivered isn’t as important, ultimately, as the journalism you actually read and see.”
Still, some speculate it will be a great loss to many Utahns.
“[There are] two large newspapers reporting on the state of Utah and they’re declining in their print runs? That will have an impact,” said Mary Weaver Bennett with the Leavitt Center for Politics at Southern Utah University.
“You have parts of Utah where there is no broadband access,” Bennett continued. “If you are in a rural part of the state and you don’t have that daily source of information, it leads you to rely greater on word of mouth from your neighbors and what you hear downtown.”
“I think it’s particularly important when you start thinking about the pandemic," Bennett said. "Getting information every single day about what the state is doing regarding the pandemic could be more of a challenge."
As of now, Noyce said the pricing is still being figured out. However, current Tribune subscribers will automatically receive the weekly publication when it debuts in January 2021.
Current Tribune subscribers are also encouraged to set up their online accounts.
FOX 13 is a content-sharing partner with The Salt Lake Tribune.