Desert News to cut 35 staff positions; revamp operations

The Salt Lake Tribune/June 5, 2008

In the wake of falling subscriptions and advertising revenue, the Deseret News is shedding 35 staffers by mid-July.

"There is no question it is a huge punch in the gut to everyone's morale," said Editor Joe Cannon on Thursday afternoon following a staff meeting.

The newspaper, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will rethink its operation from top to bottom, Cannon said.

"We will become more local, more online, and more Mormon," he said.

The paper's revenues declined 32 percent since January, according to the Deseret News, as advertisers sought out other media, including the Internet.

In the coming weeks the Deseret News will implement a new model that can succeed in an era where online news readership is increasing while that of traditional newspapers is in a downward trend, Cannon said.

"You cannot cut your way to success," he said. "You have to have a sustainable revenue model going forward."

In April, the Audit Bureau of Circulations said the average number of Deseret News papers distributed fell 1.6 percent, to 73,817, in the six months ending in March. Sunday circulation was down 3.2 percent, to 77,488.

Circulation at The Salt Lake Tribune was down 5.1 percent daily, to 121,699. Sunday paid circulation was off 4 percent, to 143,296.

The Deseret News staff will be reduced from about 200 full-time positions to about 165 or 170, Cannon said.

The reductions can be voluntary. If not enough choose to take a compensation package, staffers will be laid off.

The formula for compensation, according to Cannon, is the equivalent of 1.5 weeks of pay for every year of service plus three weeks pay. For example, a person who worked for the paper for 10 years would get a total compensation of 18 weeks salary.

A committee of Deseret News editors and managers is looking at ways for Utah's second-largest newspaper to move into the future, according to Publisher Jim Wall.

"Their goal is to look at our cost structure and look at the ways our newspaper is operating and how we can look to the future and meet the challenges that are going on in our industry."

Newspaper circulation across the country has been waning since the 1980s, but the pace has accelerated recently as reader habits change and more people go to the Internet and other media for news, information and entertainment.

The Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune jointly own MediaOne, formerly known as the Newspaper Agency Corp., which provides printing, advertising and circulation for both papers.

The Tribune has 170 people in its newsroom and another 11 people working on specialty products.

Tribune Editor Nancy Conway said she anticipates no layoffs or buyouts.

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