Jim Dabakis: Salt Lake Tribune to be sold

A number of reports from different sources are saying there will soon be a new owner for the Salt Lake Tribune. Reportedly, the paper is losing money and its owner, the New York Hedge Fund, Alden Global Capital is ready to dump the Tribune.

Jim Dabakis: Salt Lake Tribune to be sold
by Sen. Jim Dabakis

It is not market conditions that have turned the Tribune unprofitable. It’s because the Trib’s Hedge Fund owner and Deseret News Publishing came to an agreement in the fall of 2013. The deal called for Tribune to stop getting its traditional 58% take from the papers joint monopoly. The amended agreement drops the Tribune to an untenable 30%. In exchange for cutting the Tribune’s cut, the Hedge Fund received a lot of money upfront from Deseret News Publishing – some reports say the D News paid out as much as $23 million dollars.

That agreement sealed the fate of the Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune cannot operate successfully on 30%. Alden and Deseret News Publishing, with access to all the numbers, should surely have known the consequence of the new agreement.

Now in the driver’s seat financially, the Deseret News Publishing Company is apparently exerting an additional issue over the Salt Lake Tribune. The Deseret News claims a right to approve any new owner for its competitor. Some experts have called this claim legally dubious.

I know of several qualified local individuals who would be interested in purchasing the Tribune but no one has been contacted. Apparently both Alden and Deseret News Publishing have decided that they want to keep the sale of the Tribune closed to the public. Keep it in the family.

I fear for the survival and the independence of the Salt Lake Tribune.

If the Trib were to go away or to become a patsy for the Deseret News or have owners that were willing to buckle under the dominant political and cultural forces in the state – the ramifications for would be epic. The state would be without an independent serious press anchor. Especially with the recent direction of the Deseret News, which has become an ecclesiastical voice rather than a traditional newspaper. On countless issues it is exclusively the Tribune that reports on the facts – fairly, without fear and without the influence of the political power structure.

The Tribune needs the following:

1. A strong, local owner who is not a part of the ruling paradigm. An owner with the resources to invest in the Tribune to make it healthy and guide the paper into 21st century journalism–wherever that leads.

2. Complete and total editorial freedom, especially from Deseret News Publishing. A professional news and editorial board with an eye toward the Tribune’s long and proud history of independence and journalistic excellence.

Currently, the US Justice Department is looking into the arrangement between Alden and Deseret News Publishing. On antitrust issues. I would love to recommend to DOJ that they approve a new owner for the Tribune.

But, please understand, Alden and Deseret News Publishing, the people of Utah understand what has happened. And as you quietly select a new owner, please do not pick an owner for the Tribune that will be a part of an effort to quell, however subtly, a strong, independent voice for the Tribune for generations to come.

Originally posted at The Dabakis Factor. Reposted with permission. 


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