Salt Lake Tribune's new editor vows to pursue 'great journalism'
A fresh-faced English major just out of liberal arts college, Utah native Terry Orme started working at The Salt Lake Tribune when editors all wore ties and a perpetual cloud of cigarette smoke lingered in the air.
It was 1977 and the newsroom was still on Salt Lake City's Main Street, a few doors from Lamb's restaurant. Reporters tapped out their stories on clattering typewriters mounted on wooden desks and, when done, yanked out the pages and cried, "Boy!'' Orme, or one of the other entry-level clerks, scrambled to collect the copy and deliver it for editing.
Now 58, Orme worked his way up as a reporter, film critic, features editor and news editor before becoming managing editor under Editor Nancy Conway, giving him a front-row seat to 35 years of Tribune history.
With Conway's retirement, he officially took over as the paper's editor and publisher Tuesday.
"I never thought this is the way it would happen," he said.
Departing Publisher Dean Singleton, who lives in Denver, said part of his motivation for stepping down was to clear the way for Orme, whom he praised for having devoted his entire career to the paper.
"The Tribune needs an editor and publisher who is in the community 24-7," said the 62-year-old Singleton, whose 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis has forced him in recent years to rely on a wheelchair and limited his ability to travel.
"The future of The Tribune is very bright under Terry,'' Singleton said. "And he is the right person to take us into the future."
Lisa Carricaburu, a former metro editor for Ogden's Standard-Examiner before coming to The Tribune in 1996, replaced Orme as managing editor.
His father, a doctor from Tooele, and his mother, a health-care worker from Price, Orme grew up near Salt Lake City's 9th and 9th neighborhood and graduated from East High. He is friendly, accessible and unassuming, has an intimate knowledge of Utah and its geography, and loves horses and the outdoors. He lives in Sandy with his wife, Nancy, a former Tribune reporter, and relaxes at a small cabin in Oakley. The couple have two daughters, one an attorney in Salt Lake City and the other a teacher in San Francisco.
Orme's first job as copy boy "was a real education on how newspapers were put together in those days," he said. "You saw interactions between editors and reporters and when an editor was unhappy with a reporter. And on that rare chance when you got to write a story, you were scrutinized hard. They went through it pretty thoroughly.''
Orme's first piece featured a Salt Lake City man who collected music on antique wax rollers playable on a Thomas Edison gramophone, a distant precursor to the popular vinyl record player. The aspiring novelist was thrilled.
Decades later, Orme is especially proud of big stories The Tribune has covered, including the Olympic bribery scandal and the 2002 Winter Games.
"We have done some truly great journalism," he said.
While among the generations of Utahns who grew up on the paper's print legacy, Orme has also played a key role in its evolving digital strategies, as readership of its website, sltrib.com, has grown to nearly 25 million page views a month. Readership patterns are morphing rapidly, particularly with the advent of multimedia, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the increasing sophistication of hand-held devices.
Earlier this month, falling print circulation and advertising revenues led Tribune managers to lay off 19 employees, bringing staffing to 94 reporters, editors and photographers. By comparison, the newsroom employed 160 people in 2005.
"These latest cuts hurt us there's no getting around that," said Dan Harrie, a veteran Tribune political reporter and editor. "But if you could pick one person to lead the newsroom after this body blow, it would be Terry Orme. We trust him."
The latest cuts, aimed at better positioning the paper to capitalize on its online future, have shaken staff morale and plunged senior editors into a massive restructuring of newsroom responsibilities.
"I used to speak confidently about how things were going," Orme said. "And that confidence is not there anymore because things are changing so fast that I don't know myself what's going to happen.
"But if someone asks me a question, I'm going to answer it as honestly and as best I can," he said. "I don't want to give people a false sense of optimism, but at the same time, I do want to impress on them how important the jobs that they do are.
"The 94 journalists that still are here it's an incredible newsroom," Orme said. "It's a newsroom of really smart, capable people, and I have every confidence that they're going to continue to do great journalism."
The typewriters are long gone. The passion isn't.