An era ends at The Salt Lake Tribune this week. When Editor Nancy Conway returns from an excursion to Portugal, she will carry the title “emeritus.”
Conway leaves after a decade of strong leadership through the information-delivery revolution that has presented newsrooms both opportunities and challenges. She has led The Tribune, and, in fact, all news media in Utah, through contentious encounters with the Utah Legislature and governor over the rights of citizens to access information about their government.
She leaves The Tribune as Utah’s news leader in print and online. Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act remains intact and strong, perhaps the most useful tool in a reporter’s ability to get information.
Conway also departs amid difficult financial times for newsrooms in general and ours in particular. Her retirement coincides with a downsizing that is particularly painful due to the expertise and institutional knowledge that has left our newsroom.
Conway and Editorial Page Editor Vern Anderson chose to retire now in order to reduce the impact on the newsroom. They are leaving so others can stay, though the loss of 20 percent of our staff cannot be overstated.
So, where to now?
Four things are clear:
• Our future is digital. That’s where most young, and many not-so-young, readers get their news.
• We have a strong core audience that demands a high-quality print edition.
• We must fulfill our responsibility as the independent watchdog in Utah.
• Tribune editorial pages must remain the voice of reason and conscience of Utah.
Our charge going forward is to deliver news on all digital platforms and to take advantage of the immediacy and the storytelling tools they offer. That means audience engagement through interactive video, social media and presentation of data.
It also means being first on a story, and continuing to develop that story until we can get beyond facts to what they mean in a broader context.
Our print edition is less a delivery vehicle for breaking news and more the place for a broad selection of stories that offer readers the news with emphasis on analysis and context.
If those goals for print and online seem at odds, look at it this way: If a newspaper is the first draft of history, online is a look at that draft as it develops, as information becomes known.
But it is more than that: The digital toolbox lets a journalist tell a story in many ways. Readers can see and hear the source via video. A reporter can present a live exchange with a source. A photographer presents a gallery that adds richness to a subject. Primary documents that are a story’s foundation are there for readers to examine. The possibilities go on and on.
When you have fewer people in the newsroom, the presumption often is that in-depth, ambitious journalism is the first casualty. We are committed to watchdog, investigative and explanatory journalism that is The Tribune’s hallmark.
So how can I say all this when we are going forward after a painful layoff? It won’t be easy. But The Tribune still has more than 90 fine journalists, the largest and best staff in the state and the Intermountain West. Our editors are without peers when making coverage choices that favor stories with impact, stories that need attention now, and pushing off those that can wait for another day, or even indefinitely.
Planning and focus are the keys. Deploying resources to best serve Tribune readers in particular, and all Utahns in general — that’s the goal.
Let us know how we are doing.
Terry Orme is a managing editor of The Tribune. On Tuesday, he will become editor and publisher. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.