In the span of just two days, Salt Lake City learned that it would join the list of American cities without a daily newspaper after both of its major papers said they would stop printing a daily edition at the end of the year.
The Deseret News will instead print a weekly edition, as well as a monthly magazine, its editor, Doug Wilks, said in an op-ed article on Tuesday. That news came the day after the city’s other major newspaper, The Salt Lake Tribune, announced that it would switch from a daily printing schedule to a weekly one.
The newspapers said that on Dec. 31 they would end a 68-year-old partnership that allowed them to collaborate on printing, delivery and advertising. Utah Media Group, which manages the printing operations, told its 161 employees on Monday about “the coming end of the printing company, detailing severance packages,” The Deseret News reported.
“I’m heartbroken,” the city’s mayor, Erin Mendenhall, said in a phone interview on Tuesday evening. “Our capital city has had two fantastic papers for my lifetime and longer,” she said.
The change will end a nearly 150-year run of daily newspaper delivery for The Tribune.
The Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been printing for nearly 170 years. It started as a “small weekly sheet” in 1850, three years after the territory it is named for was declared, Mr. Wilks wrote. It became a daily in 1865.
Mayor Mendenhall said that “which paper you read is part of the context of Utah culture.” She said that she read both papers — online, admittedly — and that both provided “excellent reporting and have exceptional journalists.”
The economic decline caused by the coronavirus pandemic has pummeled a local newspaper industry already struggling with declining revenues, layoffs and pay reductions in newsrooms across the country.
David Noyce, the interim editor of The Tribune, told readers in an email that the paper was making the change to position itself financially for the future and that the change would not result in any reduction of its newsroom staff.
“We know a lot of readers (and Tribune journalists) love the feel of newsprint in their hands each morning,” Mr. Noyce said. “Unfortunately, that’s not financially sustainable any longer.”
The website will relaunch in the coming days, the newspaper said, and some journalists in the 65-person newsroom will be redeployed in unspecified roles.
The Deseret News told its staff at a meeting on Monday that 18 employees, most of whom were in the newspaper’s visual editing and sales departments, were being laid off, according to the newspaper.
Its president and publisher, Jeff Simpson, said in the op-ed article that the paper was “in a unique position because for years now our digital readership has dwarfed our print readership.”
The number of digital users on its site is 500 times that of its local print subscribers, Mr. Wilks wrote.
Over the last decade, newspapers across the country, big and small, have had to change their business models and structures to stay profitable — or simply survive — as revenues from advertisers have collapsed. In 2019, Paul Huntsman, owner of The Tribune, sought federal approval to turn the newsroom into a nonprofit operation, which he said would give it the best chance of survival.
Later that year, The Tribune became the first metropolitan daily to become a nonprofit organization. It takes in revenue from ads, reader subscriptions and philanthropic donations.
The Tribune said its weekly edition would showcase the newspaper’s best enterprise work and in-depth stories. It would also carry articles from The New York Times, The Associated Press and other news outlets.
The Deseret News will expand its daily online offerings, as well as its emailed newsletters, its editor, Mr. Wilks, wrote.
Amid the pandemic, Mayor Mendenhall said, social gatherings, meetings “and now ultimately our local newspaper are all happening online in 2020.”