Salt Lake Tribune announces more layoffs



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Salt Lake Tribune announced Thursday that it's cutting eight positions in the latest round of layoffs at the state's largest newspaper.

Editor and Publisher Terry Orme said during a staff meeting that the cuts include seven full-time staffers and one part-time employee, The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/QaJXyv ). The employees let go will get severance payments.

He explained that the newspaper's New York-based corporate owner, Digital First Media, called on the newspaper to cut its budget by 10 percent. Digital First Media manages Denver-based Media News Group, the Tribune's parent company, on behalf of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

The newspaper is also getting rid of its faith section, and left open the possibility of eliminating or downsizing other print features such as outdoor and business coverage, the Tribune reports.

The announcement comes seven months after three of the Tribune's top leaders stepped down and 17 full-time staffers were let go. Four other newsroom positions have been eliminated by way of attrition in recent months.

"We have good people in every position and a great staff," Orme said. "Making decisions like this is agonizing because there are no good decisions. Nobody in this room deserves this."

In October, terms of a six-decade-old joint operating agreement between the Tribune and the Deseret News were significantly altered.

The Deseret News, which is owned by a for-profit arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, bought The Salt Lake Tribune's share of a printing plant and in return gets 70 percent of profits from the newspapers' joint print advertising and circulation businesses. The old profit split was 58 percent for the Tribune and 42 percent for the Deseret News.

The money from the sale of the printing plant was used to pay off Media News debt.

The two daily newspapers have been part of a joint operating agreement since 1952. It combines printing, advertising and circulation operations while keeping editorial functions separate. It is one of six remaining joint operating agreements in the country.

A group of former employees of The Salt Lake Tribune say the new terms of a joint operating agreement the newspaper is in with the Deseret News threaten to undermine the Tribune's independent news voice.

Orme said the elimination of the faith section doesn't mean the newspaper will scale back coverage of the LDS church or other religions. Longtime lead religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack keeps her job.

"This isn't about dialing down our faith coverage at all," Orme said, noting the large online audiences drawn to Tribune stories on religion and ethics. "This is in no way a retreating from that."

John Paton, chief executive of Digital First Media, said all 280 daily and weekly publications in the company are facing cuts as newspapers transform from a "print-centric business to a multi-platform business," the Tribune reports.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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The Associated Press

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