McEntee: Day One at the new Deseret News
One of the top stories appearing on the Deseret News website Wednesday morning was about how Jewish and Mormon leaders had reconciled their differences regarding Holocaust victims and the LDS Church's rite of baptism for the dead.
What got my attention was the byline on the story Michael Purdy: Special to the Deseret News.
At least at the time, about 10:30 a.m., there was no indication that Purdy is a Salt Lake City-based spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Tuesday, the News and The Salt Lake Tribune reported the News was cutting 85 jobs at the newspaper, establishing a new business model that is heavily reliant on a global Web presence and an integrated newsroom commingling the paper's staff and that of KSL's television and radio news departments. The daily paper still will land on subscribers' driveways.
And, it appears, the News is bypassing certain journalistic conventions along the way.
Regarding the Purdy story, it was striking that in one of its first breaking-news articles the newspaper failed to identify the "reporter" as a member of the faith's public affairs department.
The story bore a New York dateline, which in standard journalism practice means the writer was there. Purdy was in Salt Lake City. Also, the photograph with the story was taken several years ago near the Family History Library, but the caption didn't mention that.
It likely was a rookie mistake for the paper's new bosses, many of them businessmen and business professors and consultants who have been taking control over the past several months. Editor Joe Cannon, himself a former businessman, stepped down Tuesday, as did publisher Jim Wall.
And, it should be said, at midday Purdy's name had been removed from the story.
The News and the Tribune have a joint operation agreement providing printing, advertising and distribution of both papers; the Tribune's owner is Denver-based MediaNews Group.
But maybe the most important thing about the News' overhaul is that 85 people lost their jobs, some of them longtime, diligent employees and first-rate journalists. On Tuesday, I spotted one former staffer carrying a blue binder with separation documents leaving the paper's headquarters, red-faced and close to tears.
"I did enjoy working for the Deseret News," was all the person would say.
In fact, most have been told not to talk to other news media. (This to journalists who have spent their careers getting people to talk to them.) A few were willing to share their experiences.
A while ago, I'm told, management conducted one-on-one interviews to "gauge [staffers'] adherence to the mission statement" that produced the overhaul. Later, employees were asked about their approaches to team leadership, their skills and abilities that would relate to the paper's future work, their adaptability and demonstrated alignment with the mission and values of Deseret Media Co.
And whether the employee supports the principles of the LDS Church.
"I don't come from within their value system. I don't begrudge it. It's their ship. It's a 180-degree turnaround, and some people don't fit," another ex-staffer said.
But some do, including "citizen journalists" and spokesmen who'll provide news reports.
By the way, by mid-afternoon Michael Purdy's name was back on the story about Jewish-Mormon reconciliation over proxy baptisms.
This time the story closed with a tag: "Michael Purdy is in the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
I'm guessing there was a day-long discussion in that newsroom about the virtue of transparency.
Peg McEntee is a columnist. Reach her at email@example.com.
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