Salt Lake Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce resigns

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce.

Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce has resigned.

The veteran journalist and former public-radio reporter has led Utah’s largest daily newspaper since August 2016. She sent her letter of resignation Monday, citing differences with the newspaper’s board chairman and chief philanthropic patron Paul Huntsman.

The resignation was accepted on Tuesday. Her last day will be Aug. 14.

“During the past four years as editor, my primary goals have been to support excellent journalism, boost the newspaper’s profile and secure its future, and those efforts have paid off,” Napier-Pearce wrote. “The Tribune’s journalism is more important than ever and on more platforms than ever before to reach new audiences.”

She called leading The Tribune “a tremendous honor.”

“But as I’m sure you are aware, the board chair and I have differences of opinion about newsroom coverage, management and policies,” she wrote to the nine-member board, which was appointed in early March.

“These differences have sharpened over the past six months,” she continued, “and it has reached a point where the best thing for both me and the institution is to step aside.”

Napier-Pearce announced her departure Wednesday to The Tribune’s staff of about 70 reporters, editors, photographers and other employees. She has not detailed her differences with Huntsman, though she did note that she had not been asked to resign and was not leaving for other reasons.

As the gap in outlooks with Huntsman has widened, she told the staff, “it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer effectively lead the vision. I’m in the way of progress ... It’s in the best interest of the future of this institution.”

She told the staff that The Tribune has expanded into new digital platforms, formed several major news partnerships and steadily grown its subscriber and donor base over the past four years.

“The Tribune is poised to survive and thrive, and I’m proud to leave the paper in better shape than I found it,” she wrote in an email.

The board of directors has named Managing Editor David Noyce, a Tribune staffer since 1984, the interim editor.

A statement issued by The Tribune’s board made no mention of management or policy disputes that precipitated Napier-Pearce’s departure.

Instead, the statement praised Napier-Pearce’s work “building on The Tribune’s legacy of high-caliber, award-winning journalism, while boosting the newspaper’s profile and establishing a path toward a sustainable future for the paper.”

“Jennifer is an incredibly talented journalist and editor who has led The Salt Lake Tribune through one of the most transformative periods in Tribune history,” Huntsman said in the statement. “Moreover, her leadership during this tumultuous time in our world and our state has been evident through the strong reporting of the entire Tribune team over the past several months.”

The statement said the entire board “was thankful for Napier-Pearce’s strong leadership” and “wishes her well in all of her future endeavors.” It noted that the community-based board is responsible for hiring her replacement, “which it will do in due course.”

The board’s statement also quoted Napier-Pearce saying, “I couldn’t be more proud of The Tribune and its employees and what we have accomplished under very difficult circumstances.”

Huntsman and one other board member reached by The Tribune declined to comment beyond the board’s statement and several others did not respond to inquiries.

Napier-Pearce joined The Tribune newsroom in 2013 as a reporter and was named to its top newsroom position by Huntsman, who with backing from his late father Jon Huntsman Sr., purchased the outlet from Digital First Media in 2016.

She is the first Pacific Islander and the second woman to lead The Tribune newsroom. As editor, Napier-Pearce backed The Tribune’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of rape on Utah’s college campuses and helped guide its 2019 application to become the first privately held U.S. newspaper to convert to a community-based nonprofit.

The Internal Revenue Service granted that status in November. Before that The Tribune has weathered years of financial struggle in the face of declining ad and subscription revenue. Its conversion is being closely monitored by other news outlets and industry observers across the country.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) David Noyce.

Noyce, who is 62 and a veteran of The Tribune’s copy desk, oversees its religion, polygamy and environment coverage, among other topics. He’s the co-host of the popular “Mormon Land” podcast.

Noyce said in a statement that he was “in mourning. I have truly loved working for Jennifer. She has been a remarkably talented, compassionate and transformative leader, challenging me to stretch in many ways as a journalist.”

He said he assumed The Tribune helm “with some personal trepidation” and fully cognizant it was an interim position.

But Noyce said he had “complete confidence in my capable colleagues at The Tribune and their dedication to the pursuit of insightful journalism to benefit our readers and the community we serve.”