Letter to readers: Deseret News provides clarification on new joint operating agreement

Deseret News

Published: Mon, April 21, 2014, 9:10 p.m. MDT

 Deseret News building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Deseret News building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

The following are several clarifications regarding the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) between The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News.

A commitment to multiple, independent voices: The Deseret News is committed to the market's demand for multiple editorial voices and the amended JOA upholds that commitment. As with the prior agreement, the amended JOA includes specific measures to protect both newspapers' independence:

Both newsrooms remain entirely independent and outside of the JOA.

The Tribune pays no rent for use of the plant and presses that were purchased by the Deseret News. This is a significant financial benefit to the Tribune that comes in addition to their ownership percentage.

The new agreement affords more protections for both partners than in previous versions of the JOA, including, for example, decisions on frequency and promotion.

Tribune ownership initiated discussions: Revisions to the JOA were the result of conversations initiated by Tribune ownership, not the Deseret News. The choice of how to use the proceeds from the transaction is an internal matter for the ownership and management of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Both parties acted in good faith: The JOA was revised six months ago, at which time the Department of Justice was originally notified by both The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News. Both organizations provided additional information at that time, and the Deseret News will continue to do so as requested.

Investment in digital: The future of news media is moving to digital formats, where consumer choices continue to expand. This digital growth creates both opportunities and challenges tied to an increasing number of competitive voices. It is the responsibility of news organizations to innovate and adapt to the evolving media landscape.

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1. wrostow
Salt Lake City, UT,
April 22, 2014

The biggest problem with "the deal" is that it's completely self-serving, with the Trib's owner, a hedge fund, pocketing all the money. None of the profit is being reinvested into the paper. The result has been four layoffs at The Tribune in the past year, as well as cuts to sections in the paper, and it is evident that quality has suffered as a result. It's easy for DNews to say the deal protects the Tribune, but it's hardly true. Look at the facts. The paper is suffering, and Deseret Media isn't much better off. Its claimed rise in circulation is the result of give-away "National Edition" inserts; half the staff was cut and sections eliminated in its own newsroom; controversy has plagued DN operations (i.e. Richard Burwash and Richard Eyre), and KSL has tanked after years as sole leader in the market. Indeed, DNews management is no different than the hedge fund that owns the Trib, caring only about the bottom line, not the product or a greater responsibility to inform the community. The harsh reality is that the DN philosophy is more cutthroat than magnanimous. That being, "Evolve or die."

2. biil
Salt Lake City, UT,
April 22, 2014

It’s important to point out that ownership of both newspapers negotiated terms of the amended joint operating agreement to suit their strategic business interests — not necessarily the interests of readers concerned about massive cuts in resources devoted to reporting civically important news and events.

The hedge fund that owns the Tribune, Alden Global Capital, was looking for cash to pay off its enormous company-wide debt. The Deseret News Publishing Co. could hardly pass up a deal that virtually ensures the demise of its longtime competitor: 70 percent of revenue goes to the Deseret — despite the Tribune’s continuing domination of circulation — as well as control of production, advertising, and circulation.

The Newspaper Preservation Act was enacted to help ensure the viability of competing newspapers.

However, it seems apparent that ownership of both newspapers colluded to undermine NPA’s intent, ironically using its provision to shield the deal from anti-trust laws. As a result, the marketplace of ideas Utahns need to maintain a healthy democracy will continue to shrink, metaphorically, from a healthy, robust, locally based farmers market to a 7-Eleven.

3. marxist
Salt Lake City, UT,
April 23, 2014

re: biil You said it better than I could. This "clarification" is anything but. I fully believe your intent is to kill the Tribune. If you don't want us to think this you had better be a whole lot more forthcoming.

4. Screwdriver
Casa Grande, AZ,
April 23, 2014

The DN has a deep pocketed benefactor in the LDS church so it's hardly going to go under. I would think that's proof in one circumstance where socialism wins over pure capitalism.

Now if the DN could just be known throughout the world as the most fair, just and most human rights centered news source in the world. A lofty goal yet...

5. Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah,
April 23, 2014

It's refreshing to read something that explains what is happening behind the scenes. Congratulations to the Deseret News for changing with the times. Congratulations for acting when action was necessary. Unfortunately, the Tribune either didn't see what was coming or didn't care enough to broaden its revenue base.

When the public turned to electronic devices to get their news, the need for a paper edition diminished, but just as many eyes are still reading the news. The Deseret News has found a way to generate revenue. The Tribune has not.