It’s a first. It’s historic and also sad. In hopes to stay in business in our new digital age, the Salt Lake City Tribune in Utah has today become a public charity with the approval from the IRS to operate as a 501 (C ) (3) nonprofit entity.
In addition to paid subscriptions, tax deductible donations may now be made to the paper with donor’s names made public.
With the move, Paul Huntsman, owner and publisher, hopes to bolster the paper’s financial prospects. Going forward, an outside board of community directors will govern the paper’s finances with a strict firewall between the board and the newsroom.
Huntsman, a member of a rich and powerful Utah family, believes the current business model for local newspapers is beyond repair. He is not alone in this belief as subscribers turn increasingly to such venues as streaming, Facebook, Twitter and other social media and internet news outlets.
The Salt Lake City Tribune has a current daily circulation of 32,000, which represents a precipitous drop from just a few years ago. In 2015, the paper’s daily readership was 74,000. Advertising revenues are down 40 per cent from a few years ago.
Already, the paper’s editorial staff has been reduced to 40 from 90 members, a drop that certainly inhibits news coverage. But, a daily paper with a reduced staff is still better than no paper at all.
Since federal law prohibits nonprofits from electioneering, the paper’s move means it may no longer endorse political candidates for public office. Op-ed opinion pieces remain allowable.
So, it goes!