May a newspaper become a nonprofit “community asset”?

Fighting for its survival, the Salt Lake City Tribune hopes to do just that by seeking federal approval from the IRS to become a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization sustained by tax free donations large and small. IT’S A FIRST. But, falling circulation and drastic drops in advertising revenues in the newspaper business in the digital age is forcing innovative thinking by private publishers. In this case, Paul Huntsman. If the move is successful, the 148 year old Salt Lake City Tribune would change from a privately owned business to one controlled by a public board. The Tribune would be designated a “community asset.”

This, of course, raises an interesting question about editorials, a long tradition in newspaper publishing. Editorials take a position, usually ones dictated by a private owner. Also, could an organization supported by tax free donations endorse candidates for public office as newspapers do presently? Like other newspapers, the staff of the Salt Lake City Tribune is dwindling. Currently, it numbers 60, down from 148 in 2011. There is another daily paper in Salt Lake City, The Deseret News, the oldest newspaper in Utah. So, if the Tribune went belly up, there still would be a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. This could be a factor in any IRS decision. Let’s see what happens.

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