I’m assuming by now you’ve read all the rumors about what will be happening to the Deseret News. Now it’s time to hear the truth. (Changes at the Deseret News announced)
There is no sugar-coating the bad news. Like a lot of other newspapers in America, this one has to cut costs, and that means cutting people; real people with bills to pay and families to feed; people I’ve grown to love and respect through many years (I’ve been here since 1986).
The problem isn’t a lack of readership. Far from it – print circulation is holding steady and on-line circulation is booming. Readership grew by 20 percent in 2009, the best of any paper in the country.
No, the problem is the Internet has sapped ad sales. It has put a big dent in the business model that has sustained newspapers for more than two centuries, and that’s a permanent change.
So here are the awful numbers: 57 full-time and 28 part-time employees got pink slips today. That’s 43 percent of the paper’s workforce. Several of them will be asked to remain for a few months to help the paper transition, but then they will be let go.
As tough as it is to say goodbye to good people, the truth is the newspaper faced a choice familiar to papers everywhere – either cut people and reinvent yourself or cease to exist. And this paper definitely intends to exist, and thrive, for a long time. It’s also reinventing itself unlike any other paper.
For those of us remaining, there is a big silver lining to this storm cloud.
We are coordinating with KSL to create the largest newsroom in the Intermountain West. While other papers are forced to sacrifice in-depth stories just to stay on top of news, this paper will have the resources to do both. Your school board and city council won’t be ignored, and neither will those hidden stories that need more time to develop.
The paper has recruited an impressive array of intellects nationwide to form a new editorial advisory board. We are launching something new called Deseret Connect, in which experts will provide stories that are vetted and edited by veteran journalists at the paper.
The paper will be driven by its unique values. Don’t pretend that other media sources aren’t driven by values of their own. They are, even if the people working there aren’t fully conscious of it. If you pick up the New York Post you can immediately tell the difference between it and the New York Times. The Deseret News isn’t just another local paper. It’s much more and, particularly on the editorial page, it will take its place in the broad spectrum of voices to be heard — a voice committed to time-honored values.
And make no mistake, we will continue to deliver a newspaper to the homes of our subscribers seven days a week. You will continue reading many of your favorite local columnists (including yours truly). You can continue to count on us for the latest news and sports, including detailed coverage of high school sports.
That’s what really is happening over here.
Look, I wish I could hop in a way-back machine and return to the days when you had to buy a classified ad to sell your car. I wish there was a way to afford all the people let go today. They are good, talented people. This is a difficult day here.
But your Deseret News isn’t going away. It has found a way to keep going, and to thrive. That’s good news for our ever-expanding community of readers. It’s great news in a nation where the death of newspapers has become so common it no longer merits the front page.