The Deseret News announced Tuesday that it would replace its daily print edition with a weekly for readers in Utah and another for those outside its borders, along with a national monthly magazine it will call Deseret.
The newspaper, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said on its website the plans were part of a long-standing effort to foster a “national leadership role as the watchdog of the family and of faith in the public square.”
The announcements come after the News and The Salt Lake Tribune said Monday they would not renew their long business partnership built around printing and delivering the two papers to Utah customers. That joint operating agreement expires Dec. 31.
The Tribune, which has printed since 1871, said Monday it would scale back to one weekly print edition as a showcase of its top enterprise work and would continue to file up-to-the-minute stories on its website. Both outlets have said their decision reflected that a critical mass of their audiences had moved to digital platforms.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Tuesday “it’s hard to believe we’ll no longer have a daily print paper” in Utah’s capital. “Local journalism is essential to democracy,” the mayor tweeted. “I look forward to reading online, but I’ll miss both papers dearly.”
The Deseret News, founded in 1850 and named after the word “honeybee” in the Book of Mormon, the signature Latter-day Saint scripture, is Utah’s oldest continuously operating business. It began as a weekly edition, with its first pages printed near Temple Square on a wrought-iron press hauled to the region by oxen-drawn wagons.
Under changes at the News, to take effect early next year, the revamped weekly newspaper will retain the Deseret News name. The paper’s Church News, directed at Latter-day Saints, will continue in weekly print.
Current subscribers to the News’ daily paper, its weekly national edition and the Church News will have their subscriptions converted to the new Deseret News weekly and the monthly magazine “in the coming weeks,” the paper’s top editor said.
A representative for the News said all its new products will be delivered by mail. The new weekly Tribune will also be mailed to subscribers.
“Is this the end of daily news? No, it’s an expansion of our daily in-depth news and commentary, coming to you where you’ve told us you want it,” News Editor Doug Wilks wrote online, referring to growing digital audiences for the outlet.
The end of the joint operating agreement will lead to the closure of facilities in West Valley City and layoffs for 160 workers at Newspaper Agency Co., which has printed and delivered the two papers for nearly 70 years.
The nonprofit Tribune’s board issued a news release Monday stating there are no plans to reduce its newsroom staff of about 65 due to the decision, though some employees would be redeployed.
The News announced Monday it has extended severance packages to 18 employees and that six journalists were losing their jobs.
Joel Kaplan, a professor of magazine, news and digital journalism at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, said the curtailing of print in Salt Lake City “should not be a surprise." Dozens of other daily print publications across the country have either shut down or reduced their print operations.
Despite rapid declines in circulation, Kaplan said in an emailed statement, many papers have kept print in deference to older readers. But with ever-widening consumption of news via tablet, laptop or cellphones, he said, “it makes perfect sense to go either online only or mostly online.”
Jeff Simpson, president and publisher of the Deseret News, said in a statement that the outlet’s digital readership “has dwarfed” its print audiences. The point was echoed Monday by Salt Lake Tribune Chairman Paul Huntsman, who acquired The Tribune in 2016 and transferred ownership to the current nonprofit board last year.
The shift away from print, Huntsman said, “reflects the reality of today’s news consumption.” Along with its new weekly print version, the paper will also launch a revamped website soon, and a new mobile app in the coming weeks.
Current Tribune print subscribers who want to continue will be automatically enrolled in new weekly plans that start in January and will still get free access to all digital products. Subscription plans will be released in November.
The new Tribune print edition is expected to be mailed to subscribers along the Wasatch Front and in Summit County on weekends. For subscribers in other areas, it will arrive early the following week.
Print subscribers will also have unlimited access to digital offerings, along with access to a new daily newsletter that will include many of the print edition’s top features, including overnight sports scores, cartoons produced daily by Pat Bagley, puzzles and comics.
Those who have questions about their print subscription are urged to call Utah Media Group at 801-204-6100 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.