The cuts keep coming. The Salt Lake Tribune is the latest newspaper to drastically cut newsroom staff. On May 14, owner Paul Huntsman announced that the 147-year-old newspaper was cutting 34 newsroom employees out of 90, including well-known writers like political reporter and columnist Paul Rolly, who had been with the Tribune for 44 years.
Other layoffs include 14 reporters, seven editors, five support staff, three photographers, two web producers, a graphic artist and an opinion writer. Employees who lost their jobs will receive severance pay and buyouts of unused vacation time.
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In addition to cutting one-third of its news staff, the newspaper is eliminating key print sections including the Utah news section on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. That local coverage will move to the A section of the paper.
Huntsman said he was making the drastic cuts due to deep declines in print circulation and ad revenues. Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce addressed readers about the coming changes.
‘These staff cuts, and some reductions in print, will help put us on a more stable path. The vast majority of our readers have moved to our website and apps. An upgraded sltrib.com, gains on social media platforms, new ways of digital storytelling and a growing digital subscriber base point to a bright future for The Tribune online,’ said Napier-Pearce.
‘Laying off talented and dedicated colleagues has been flat-out excruciating and represents a tremendous loss not only for this newsroom, but also for our entire community. Some just started at The Trib while others have been in the newsroom for decades. Each contributed significantly to our newsgathering firepower. Each departure represents another cause to mourn,’ Napier-Pearce added.
The editor went on to reassure readers that the newspaper was committed to high-quality journalism and watchdog reporting, along with analysis, commentary and compelling features.
According to Tony Semerad for the Tribune, this is the fourth major round of layoffs at the newspaper since 2011. It is also the largest in size and in proportion. Huntsman had forewarned the newspaper last week, outlining the financial challenges, reports Semerad. Six days later, the layoffs were announced, first in an email and then exit interviews.
Though the Tribune put content behind a paywall three months ago, and paid digital subscriptions number in the thousands, the new revenue stream is not significant enough to make up for other revenue declines.
The Denver Post went through a similar exercise in March when it laid off 30 newsroom employees, or 30 percent of its staff. The Post, too, had put up a paywall earlier this year and the majority of the newsroom had moved from its downtown office to a printing facility in nearby Adams County.
‘These job losses are painful, and we know meaningful work will not get done because talented journalists have left the organization,’ said Denver Post editor Lee Ann Colacioppo in a memo to staff. ‘I’m sure some commenters will cheer what they believe is the eventual demise of the mainstream media, but there is nothing to celebrate when a city has fewer journalists working in it.’
For the last decade, the newspaper industry has been taking huge hits, losing print circulation and advertising revenue. Larger, legacy papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post have found a path forward, making the most of opportunities to add revenue via digital advertising and products. Smaller papers, however, are losing the battle, perhaps because they didn’t pivot to digital quickly enough. Smaller newspapers must adapt or face similar cuts or being acquired by bigger media outlets.