J ust when I became sympathetic to the McCarthey family over their Salt Lake Tribune ownership struggles, they go and shag things up. This past Sunday, five McCartheys—Thomas, Philip, Sarah, Shaun and Maureen—presumably purchased a full-page ad in The Salt Lake Tribune that pretty much unravels their mission. Their maudlin opus, an open letter to the “readers, friends of The Tribune and all Utahns” actually claimed the following: “As native Utahns, we care about maintaining an independent voice in the state and continuing the legacy of a family-owned newspaper.”
Tell that to the Landers and Godfrey families.
Jim Landers and Dave Godfrey, with their wives and kids, formerly published the Sentinel Newspapers. They gave heart and soul to their community newspapers that were previously published by Dave’s father, who was Jim’s father-in-law. The Midvale Sentinel was the company flagship. I’ll never forget the look on Jim’s face in the middle 1980s when he announced to me that the Newspaper Agency Corporation (NAC) would begin printing “zoned” editions in communities throughout the valley. He knew he was a goner, a fact cemented when advertisers began pulling out, ostensibly drawn to lower-priced ads and ad packages available through the NAC. Faster than you can say “a conspiracy of powerful interests,” their small newspapers withered away. Junk mail took its place. A similar scenario played out in Murray. Anyone remember the Murray Eagle? The Green Sheet?
Jim believed then, and I believe still, that the NAC violated federal antitrust statutes, especially as they pertain to Joint Operating Agreements (JOA) between newspapers. The NAC was auspiciously created by virtue of a JOA to insure two distinct editorial voices for Salt Lake City. So much for theory—and why only two? But Constitution and theory be damned when it comes to money. The NAC basically told Jim and Dave, “See ya in 10th Circuit Court.” The screw now turns as the McCartheys seek remedy in that same court in an effort to retain the “legacy of a family-owned newspaper.”
In a bittersweet irony, Dean Singleton purchased the remaining assets of the Sentinel Newspapers, thus allowing Landers and Godfrey at least some relief. In thier ad, the McCartheys asked Singleton to show “good faith” in this current matter. There it is.
Look, the NAC is not your friend no matter who owns or operates it. The NAC is just a monetary devil’s pact between the LDS church and the owners of The Salt Lake Tribune—whoever that may be. Both sides are greedy as hell. We’re duly impressed with the NAC’s ability to drive tens of millions of dollars of profits (as noted in a McCarthey-prop Trib editorial) into publishers’ pockets at the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. That’s what monopolies are supposed to do. How sensitive and virtuous of them to brag so, especially when Utah bankruptcies have hit an all-time high. This family expects Utah families to care? Pass the marmalade.
If the McCartheys are serious about that “insuring an independent voice” stuff and the “Utah needs our family” jive, they owe at least two families an apology and the rest of us an explanation.