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Suit seeks to block Utah newspaper deal, argues it dooms The Tribune
Courts » Ex-Trib employees, key lawmaker and top advertiser say the agreement dooms the paper.

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"Utahns understand the need for this balance ­— for two voices," the 35-page lawsuit contends. "Even thosewho are loyal to the competing News and its owner, or who have been on the receiving end of Tribune barbs or [editorial cartoonist] Pat Bagley caricatures, understand it. So do businesses looking to locate here, and advertisers, and the individuals who formed Citizens for Two Voices."

The suit includes affidavits in support of The Tribune from state Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo; leading print advertiser Jeff Miller of Mark Miller Toyota in Salt Lake City; and Don Gale, former longtime editorial voice for LDS Church-owned KSL-TV.

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In his affidavit, Bramble said The Tribune’s editorial voice was crucial to maintaining diversity in Utah’s media scene and its broader culture.

"That role cannot be fulfilled by a sectarian source of media such as the Deseret News,’’ the state senator said in his declaration. The Tribune, Bramble said, helped counter the perception of a strong invisible hand of the LDS Church dominating aspects of Utah society.

"When I, as an advocate of business in Utah, can point to The Salt Lake Tribune as a robust independent presence,’’ he said, "the concerns about a monolithic, sectarian culture are largely assuaged."

Bramble called The Tribune’s journalistic pursuits "critical" to Utah. "For example,’’ he said in his affidavit, "it is The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Salt Lake Tribune alone, that has been doggedly pursuing the story surrounding the controversy with former attorneys general of the state of Utah" John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

The Tribune ceasing to publish also would substantially damage the ability of major local advertisers to reach customers, Miller said in his affidavit.

A good portion of Salt Lake City readers "absolutely will not consult the Deseret News because of its sectarian nature, either in print or on the Web," Miller said. Loss of the Tribune "would not merely be a shift of advertising presence from one newspaper to another," he said. "[T]here would be a net loss from newspaper advertising, and it would be permanent."

The suit also includes a sworn statement from former Tribune Editor Nancy Conway, who retired in September. Based on nearly a decade of responsibility over the paper’s finances, Conway said the new profit split of 70 percent for the News and 30 percent for The Tribune "more than handicaps The Salt Lake Tribune."

The joint-operating agreement "almost certainly lays the way to The Tribune’s demise," Conway said, "because the JOA will not yield sufficient revenue for The Tribune to cover costs.’’

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Twitter: @Tony_Semerad

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