As a former newspaper reporter, it’s been with particular interest that I’ve followed the ongoing financial troubles of The Salt Lake Tribune. Every newspaper in America has gone through a contraction in the last 10-15 years, many of them switching to online only or folding entirely.
Indeed, it always makes me roll my eyes in these modern Superman movies when we get the panicked, busy newsroom scene…
… because, while Supes was created in a time when Newspaper Was King, that’s not how papers look or sound today. Most newsrooms I’ve visited are more like libraries.
The astonishing thing to me about the Tribune’s ongoing financial problems is that Salt Lake City has successfully stayed a two-paper town for so long. Desert News has managed to keep its head above water because of a) synergy with other media outlets owned by the LDS Church and b) the fact that it can appeal to a world-wide LDS audience for more web traffic.
The Salt Lake Tribune doesn’t have any such advantage. And their long-standing business model – antagonism toward the LDS Church (uh, I mean its “independent voice”) – doesn’t translate well in the modern media environment. There just isn’t as much of a market for that when you move a local print-model to a worldwide as-many-clicks-as-possible one.
So when the question came about who would (inevitably) have to rescue the Tribune, there were really only a couple options. And it wasn’t surprising that the Huntsman family come in and save the day … as though they had a big H on their chest.
Paul Huntsman, son of Jon Huntsman, Sr., will be the new owner. In a statement released to the media, he said:
“We are honored to be stewards of The Salt Lake Tribune. It is important that The Salt Lake Tribune continues in its indispensable role for our community and to be locally owned. We hope to ensure the Tribune’s independent voice for future generations and are thrilled to own a business of this quality and stature.”
Good for the Huntsmans, good for Utah, and great for the Tribune.
The Huntsmans are of course a very prominent LDS family, with the senior Huntsman having served as a general leader of the church for 15 years. So it remains to be seen how the Tribune’s antago – uh, independent voice – will play out under the new administration. I mean I get in trouble with my friends who work at the Trib when I joke them about it … but church leaders could make a declaration that the sky is blue, and the Trib would lambast them of labeling the sky with such a male-centric color.
It’s like the old song says, “The wicked who fight against Zion will surely be smitten at last … unless Zion comes and saves them.”