As I step down as Editor of The Salt Lake Tribune and into retirement, I have to say goodbye to the talented staff of this venerable news organization. As I do, I remind them that The Tribune is bigger than any owner, manager or editor — and that it is so because of its history and current role in the state of Utah.
In spite of recent staff cutbacks, The Tribune is still the news report of record in this state and the most comprehensive source of independent, local news. When you combine print and online, we have more readers than we ever have had. And our audience continues to grow.
Informing that audience — serving the public need for fair, balanced and accurate information — is what good journalism is about.
The advent of digital communication has affected the way we do our business — how we present and deliver the news — but it has not changed what we do. And what we do is to bring the truth — as best we can determine it — to our readers.
That is an awesome responsibility. There is not an institution in the state that can do it better. I have been an editor in news organizations in six different regions of the country and have never worked with a staff more committed than this one.
Neither have I found a news publication more important to its community than The Salt Lake Tribune. It has for more than 142 years been the independent voice in a state where most other media have been owned or influenced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It continues in that role today — an independent news gatherer and alternative voice — in a culture still deeply influenced by the church.
Like all news organizations, The Tribune is facing challenges. The digital revolution is changing the way we communicate — and that profoundly affects our industry and nearly every other one as well.
We can’t change the times in which we live — and, in our times, change itself is nearly constant. It is not easy to define or understand the effects of change at such speed. It is tough to see all the moving pieces when you are in the middle of a cyclone.
My hope for the news staff is that they stay focused on journalism, while not underestimating the intensity of the change. That focus is as important as ever, more so in this day of information overload.
For our community of readers, my hope is that you continue to discriminate between opinion and fair, balanced news reporting. We are bombarded with information with no sure way of knowing where it comes from. Anyone can go online and say anything they choose. Opinion gets mixed with news, and you can’t always tell what is fact, what is fiction.
The other danger is that we get hooked into reading only news with a viewpoint that bolsters our own. That can be a trap because we all like to have our biases reinforced, and be comforted by knowing we belong to a group of like-minded people.
Citizenship and democracy demands more thought. We need to know — to the degree we can — what can be confirmed as accurate and truthful. We need to hear all sides of an issue. To be free and to govern ourselves requires us to be an informed electorate.
Legacy news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune, are still staffed by professional journalists in pursuit of accuracy and truth and who can put it in social, political and historical context. Not just opinion. They are — at least for right now — our best hope to sort through it all and better understand what is going on and what it means.
I feel privileged to have worked with such a fine staff at such an essential institution in service to the good people of the great state of Utah. Thank you.
Nancy Conway is the former editor of The Salt Lake Tribune.
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