Trib Supporters Say Unfair Deal Killing Newspaper

May 15, 2014

The renegotiation of the joint agreement between the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune is once again making news. The new agreement, which was put in place at the beginning of the year, changed the Trib’s portion of the two newspapers’ shared revenue from a long-term 58 percent to 30 percent.

Utah Senator Jim Dabakis said the Trib is likely to go under in the next two months, thanks to what he calls an illegal agreement between the Deseret News and Tribune owner Alden Global Capital.

"When the Deseret News sat down and negotiated this deal with the New York hedge fund, they knew that the Tribune could not survive and subsequently, the voice — the editorial voice — in this state would be dead and they would be the only party left standing in the monopoly,” Dabakis said.

In response to the allegations, Dabakis and fellow Trib supporters started an online petition last month asking the Department of Justice, which is over the special agreement between the newspapers, to investigate the new deal.

In a prepared statement, the Deseret News said the revised joint operating agreement strengthens its commitment to be part of multiple, independent voices in Utah.

"The Deseret News is committed to the market's demand for multiple editorial voices and the amended JOA upholds that commitment," the newspaper wrote. "As with the prior agreement, the amended JOA includes specific measures to protect both newspapers' independence"

In addition, the Deseret News reports it was the Tribune's owners that first proposed changes to the JOA.

The Trib has faced multiple rounds of layoffs over the last year, something Dabakis said is not the fault of declining profits.

“The impending death of the Salt Lake Tribune is not market conditions, it is a knife wound to the heart by the Deseret News,” Dabakis said.

Dabakis said he would not be opposed to the two newspapers cutting business ties, so long as the state continues to have multiple media voices.

“It will be a nightmare, frankly, if there is only one newspaper in this state and that newspaper is the Deseret News,” Dabakis said.

So far, the “Save the Tribune” petition has more than 13,000 signatures.