I am not going to kid either you or myself. I didn't purchase The Salt Lake Tribune because I always wanted to own a newspaper or be a publisher. Owning a newspaper didn't cross my mind until a few years ago. Its purchase most assuredly was not undertaken on a whim.
Like many of you, I grew up faithfully reading The Tribune. Owning it was as incomprehensible to me as becoming a principal dancer at New York City Ballet. It was only when The Tribune, neglected by its latest owners, found itself in a financially untenable partnership that I began to take interest in Utah's most trusted and influential news medium.
The thought of the lights dimming or being extinguished at The Tribune shaped an idea: I could make a difference. Returning ownership back to Utah could provide The Tribune the ability to think creatively, move quickly and celebrate its unique role in this state.
I was — and continue to be — cognizant of the challenges, unpredictability and dangers of today's daily newspaper world, and of the fickleness of reader trust. Yet when the opportunity arose to help guide The Tribune to better, uncompromised days, it felt right. And I went all in.
It's a little intimidating, to be sure, even though my past business experience taught me how to handle risks and to make far-reaching decisions. And I am not naive about news media peculiarities.
My eyes are wide open coming into this venture.
I certainly did not purchase The Tribune with the intention of making money, although I firmly believe that time will come. It was, rather, intended for the betterment of the community and to sustain an independent voice for future generations. That may seem odd to some, given the Huntsman name being associated with entrepreneurial, profit-oriented enterprises. But from childhood, my siblings and I have been steeped in philanthropy — particularly in this community that we love and hope to leave a better place.
These past few years have been rough on The Tribune, yet its gifted journalists persevered with commitment and quality, if not always quantity, despite the yoke. They are professionals. And Tribune readers remained loyal partisans in the struggle, refusing to abandon the Wasatch Front's most-respected, best-read purveyor of daily news and commentary. There are not many newspapers in America that enjoy that reservoir of support.
But that dedication and loyalty did not turn back a clock that was ticking toward a bad ending, given the revenue protocols in place for the past five years. While some may relish a demise of The Tribune, our family did not.
A locally, privately owned Tribune assures neither quality nor ultimate success, but it does mean stakeholders aren't driven by short-term profit or outside shareholders. Local owners and the community share a passion for an independent newspaper. The Tribune is to Utah what the First Amendment is to the Constitution: a legacy guarantee of independent and, at times, adversarial thought.
Currently, there is no clear financial model for newspapers. Many of our nation's most successful business leaders are trying to solve this paradigm. Digital revenues have been in the form of converting "print dollars to digital dimes." Nevertheless, revenue models are evolving. The Tribune, like all newspapers, is under the gun from the technological revolution playing out in ways that are hard to grasp. Only bold strategies, technological upgrades, creative products and selective efficiencies will give The Tribune financial health and the long-term ability to make a difference.
A great state deserves a great newspaper. I am overwhelmed at the thought of being responsible for ensuring such a newspaper continues to exist. I am buoyed on this mission, however, by my teammates: a talented, dedicated, battle-tested newsroom and a resolute readership that stood by its newspaper. Also having my back are my spouse, Cheryl, and eight children.
So let's now address the elephant in the room. I am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have been a bishop. I make no apologies for this. I embrace the belief that Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, atheists and every person of goodwill has a right to a shot at this planet's brass ring without undue pressure to change. I also believe in the independence of church and state and press.
So here is my promise to Utah: As long as I am the owner/publisher, The Salt Lake Tribune will never be held hostage by ideology, political persuasions, business pressure or particular dogma.
We will hold every person of influence and entities accountable for their actions as we will hold ourselves responsible for fairness, accuracy and independence.
It is crucial to the civic health of any democracy to have a strong, reliable, independent second opinion. I would not have it any other way, nor should you expect it.