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Feds scrutinize Salt Lake newspapers deal
Media » New pact eyed in light of past bid by LDS Church-owned D-News to buy Tribune.

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According to an Oct. 15, 2001, court deposition by L. Glen Snarr, then-chairman of Deseret News Publishing Co., the plan involved the News buying additional shares of the newspapers’ revenue split and greater management control of joint operations.

The strategy was developed, Snarr testified at the time, because the Federal Communications Commission appeared likely to challenge the News’ purchase of The Tribune, given the LDS Church’s existing ownership of other Utah broadcast and print outlets.

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The scenario came to light as former Tribune owners in the McCarthey family fought a protracted legal battle with newspaper magnate Dean Singleton, then CEO of the MediaNews Group chain, over The Tribune’s ownership. Singleton took over The Tribune after the News’ own efforts to buy the paper failed.

Beginning in 2010, The Tribune and other newspapers owned by MediaNews Group came under management by executives at Digital First, which controls some 280 daily and weekly U.S. papers on behalf of Alden Capital.

Considered an innovator in adapting to news industry challenges from the Internet, Digital First has struggled in recent years in the face of shrinking advertising revenues.

Last September, The Tribune, as a precursor to the renegotiated JOA, laid off nearly 20 percent of its staff, a loss of 17 full-time and two part-time reporters. Then-Tribune Editor Nancy Conway and editorial page editor Vern Anderson also stepped down.

Last week, Paton announced further cuts at Digital First, including closure of Project Thunderdome, a company initiative launched in late 2011 to centralize portions of national news gathering and production functions for the chain.

In addition to eliminating Thunderdome and its 52-member staff in New York, Digital First is seeking another 10 percent reduction in costs at its newspapers. Tribune Editor and Publisher Terry Orme said Tuesday managers were continuing to explore reductions in purchased content, newsprint and staffing to achieve those cost reductions.


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Twitter: @Tony_Semerad

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