We are at a historic moment for journalism in Utah and beyond.
With the IRS granting nonprofit approval last week, The Tribune and local newspapers across the country can now pursue new financial paths and create sustainable models for the journalism we must have if democracy is to succeed.
Today we all have reason to celebrate.
When I bought The Salt Lake Tribune in 2016, I wanted to return the venerable newspaper to local ownership, motivated by a civic duty to preserve and protect this vital independent voice.
But the news industry remains turbulent. While the industry is attracting record numbers of readers when websites are included, revenue loss and migration away from print media continues to make it difficult to survive. Every publisher today faces the challenge of replacing “print advertising dollars” with “digital advertising pennies.”
I will not be held hostage to a broken system.
The Tribune is too important to shutter as hundreds of publications across the country have over the past decade. As Utahns face the environmental, educational and economic challenges ahead, it’s critical we have strong independent watchdog reporting to inform and empower us.
[Read more: In historic shift, The Salt Lake Tribune gets IRS approval to become a nonprofit]
So last fall Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce and I began searching for a new path toward sustainability. We visited with numerous nonprofit news organizations and foundations across the country and found that among the various business models, no one had reorganized a for-profit legacy newspaper into a 501(c)(3) public nonprofit.
Why not The Tribune?
With our new nonprofit business model approved, it now appears we have a solution.
Now we can embrace our good fortune, fast-tracking a new nonprofit infrastructure and improving our digital platforms to better deliver The Tribune’s award-winning journalism to Utah residents.
Now we all have the chance to revitalize the state’s independent voice in a new and permanent way.
The excitement begins. The next box to check? Building a large endowment fund — the Utah Journalism Foundation — to finance The Tribune and independent journalism in Utah for years to come. It will require leadership, resolve, courage, flexibility and a firm commitment to the First Amendment from all of us. The price of democracy is significant.
Count me in. Please join me in this grand adventure. Be assured I will keep you posted of relevant details along the way as this historic journey progresses.
Paul Huntsman is owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Have questions about the nonprofit shift? Visit sltrib.com/donate.