Disappearing Ink | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

May 14, 2014 News » Cover Story

Disappearing Ink 

Former journalists say the decline of The Salt Lake Tribune stems from a conspiracy between the paper's corporate owner and the LDS Church

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The Internet, despite being a colossal and efficient mover of information, has not been kind to newspapers. Around the world, papers have struggled to sufficiently monetize their Web offerings—which are free, for the most part—while nurturing print products that people are still expected to pay for.

“Online just has not lived up to revenue expectations,” former Tribune Editor Nancy Conway says. “It seems like it won’t.”

The revenue figures at the Tribune are secret, but according to a study released in April by the Pew Research Center, digital advertising revenue in 2012 across the newspaper business was $3.4 billion, 15.4 percent of the total $22 billion in ad revenue.

From the perspective of Digital First, the decision to abandon still-robust print revenue in favor of feeble, but growing, digital revenue, has been characterized as a bold bet on this oft-discussed digital future.

Deseret News CEO Clark Gilbert is also a strong proponent of the “future of news media” moving into “digital formats” and has been praised nationally for his commitment to digital enterprises and the efforts to transition the Deseret News from a community newspaper into a national and even international trumpet for LDS and other religious concerns.

“This digital growth creates both opportunities and challenges tied to an increasing number of competitive voices,” Gilbert says in a statement he provided to KUER 90.1 FM’s RadioWest program. “It is the responsibility of news organizations to innovate and adapt to the evolving media landscape.”

Though it’s still a small portion of overall advertising revenue, all of the growth is in the digital realm. The Pew study shows that digital revenue is now three times larger than it was in 2003, while print advertising has shrunk by 52 percent.

But in the erratic, attention-deficit world of the Web, advertisers don’t see the same response to banner ads and pop-ups as they do to print advertisements, and pay less for online ads as a result. Though digital’s tripling growth sounds impressive, it’s nowhere close to making up for the halving of print revenues.

That’s why newspapers have seen 17,000 full-time jobs disappear between 2006 and 2012, and the Tribune has had a front-row seat to the carnage.

In 2006, Conway says, the Tribune’s staff hit 178, the largest it had ever been. Now, according to the staff list on SLTrib.com, there are 87 employees.

Even so, Conway says, the Tribune has managed to do more with less and continues to put out a “very strong” product.

“It’s hard to take,” Conway says, adding that staff cuts “demoralize” the remaining employees. “Nobody likes seeing good journalists walk out the door. And in these times, a lot of good journalists have walked out the door.”

Since 2011, 43 Salt Lake Tribune staffers, listed below, have been laid off. During that time, at least 47 people have quit.

Peggy Boss Barney, Copy Desk
Paul Beebe, Business Reporter
Daisy Blake, In This Week
David Burger, Arts
Jenna Busey, Sports Copy
Dorothy Chioda, Human Resources
Julie DeHerrera, Reporter
Keira Dirmyer, Copy Desk
Judy Fahys, Reporter
Paul Fraughton, Photographer
Normand Garcia, Reporter
Alicia Greenleigh, Reporter
Paul Guillory, Copy Desk
Jennifer Dobner, Reporter
Bubba Brown, Sports Reporter
Amy Shepherd, Staff
Natalie Seid, Copy Desk
Blain Hefner, Artist
Patty Henetz, Reporter
Vince Horiuchi, Reporter
Dawn House, Reporter
Keith Johnson, Photo
John Keahey, Reporter/Editor
Michael Limon, Business Editor
Nick Mathews, laid off but has since been rehired
Heather May, Reporter
Peg McEntee, Reporter
Marilyn McKinnon, Editor/Writer
Cathy McKitrick, Reporter
Donald Meyers, Reporter
Michael Miller, Artist
Lesli Neilson, Features Editor
Steve Oberbeck, Business Reporter
Ryan Painter, In This Week
Elbert Peck, Editorial Staff
Martin Renzhofer, Sports
Donald Robinson, Copy Desk
Richard Rosetta, Copy Desk
Ashley Tarr, Copy Desk
Autumn Thatcher, In This Week
David Troester, Editor
Glen Warchol, Reporter

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