History and Mission
The Tribune is Utah’s independent voice. Building on a legacy of courageous, watchdog journalism, we strive to tell stories that are interesting, important and inclusive. Dedicated to fairness and accuracy, we aim to engage and empower you — our readers.
The first edition of what is now called The Tribune hit the streets on April 15, 1871. It was called “The Tribune & Utah Mining Gazette.”
For the next 30 years, The Tribune passed through a series of salty owners who engaged the publication in raucous duels with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1901, the newspaper was acquired by U.S. Sen. Thomas Kearns and David Keith, prominent Utah mining figures.
Upon Kearns’ death in 1918, sole ownership was acquired by the Kearns family. The circulation at the time was 10,000 on weekdays and 15,000 on Sundays. In 1924, John F. Fitzpatrick became the publisher. Under his direction, the afternoon Salt Lake Telegram was merged into the morning Salt Lake Tribune in 1952. It was also under the Fitzpatrick tenure that The Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for its reporting of a 1956 air disaster over the Grand Canyon.
The Tribune and the Latter-day Saint church-owned Deseret News signed a joint operating agreement (JOA) in 1952, with U.S. Justice Department approval, to form an independent entity called the Newspaper Agency Corporation (NAC). Under this JOA agreement, the advertising, production and delivery operations of the two newspapers were handled by the NAC, also known as Utah Media Group. Editorially, however, The Tribune and Deseret News remained independent and competitive.
John W. Gallivan became president and publisher upon Fitzpatrick’s death in 1960. When Gallivan took publisher emeritus status in 1984, Jerry O’Brien was named Tribune publisher and Dominic Welch became president and CEO of Kearns Tribune. Upon O’Brien’s death in 1994, Welch assumed the publisher’s responsibilities and duties.
In 1997, The Tribune was sold to Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). But after the newspaper’s sale to TCI, the company merged with AT&T Corp. and in January 2001, Denver-based Media News Group bought the newspaper and Dean Singleton became publisher.
With the emergence of the internet, the entire newspaper industry faced financial instability and by 2010 The Tribune was sold again, this time to Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund, with Terry Orme becoming publisher in 2013. In 2014, Alden renegotiated the JOA with the Deseret News to The Tribune’s financial disadvantage, prompting layoffs, a lawsuit and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.
After two years of intense negotiations, Utah businessman Paul Huntsman bought the newspaper, becoming owner and publisher in 2016. He continued to support the Tribune’s tradition of hard-hitting local news coverage, a decision that led to the newspaper’s second Pulitzer Prize in 2017.
But as the financial instability of the newspaper industry continued to threaten The Tribune’s long-term success, Huntsman applied to the IRS for nonprofit status, arguing the newspaper’s mission and purpose was charitable in nature and the business should be a community asset. On Oct. 29, 2019, the IRS granted The Tribune 501(c)(3) status, making it the first legacy newspaper in the U.S. to transform from a for-profit company to a nonprofit entity. Under the new structure, The Tribune is governed by a board of directors, with Huntsman serving as chairman of the board.