How The Transition From For-Profit To Nonprofit Shifted the Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial Process
Last October, the Salt Lake Tribune got approval from the IRS to become a nonprofit 501-c3 organization, which means that funding comes from tax deductible donations from the public.
George Pyle is a long time editor with the newspaper. He said as printed news becomes obsolete, digital advertising just doesn’t bring in as much money as print.
“The business model over the past 20 years is that classified advertising that paid the freight that bought the newsprint that paid for the trucks, paid for the printing press that paid for the reporters and editors and photographers and sports writers. That's just gone,’ Pyle said. “So we have to find another way.”
Now, as a nonprofit, Pyle said, they don’t have to worry about advertisement.
Now that the Tribune depends on its supporters, Pyle said the organization has to be more transparent about editorial decisions.
“I think we're even more aware of how we are owned by the community, I think we've always been owned by the community in an ethical sense,” he said. “Now we're owned by the community in a legal sense, nonprofit institution that's here to serve the community.”
He said one of the biggest challenges he’s faced with the change in editorial function is that the newspaper is no longer able to endorse candidates.
“The candidate endorsement is when you're speaking to your whole readership, or at least those of them who are registered voters and telling them what we think they ought to do,” he said. “I always thought candidate endorsements were probably the most important editorial and newspaper did. They were the only editorial that really was aimed at asking the broad readership to take a particular action.”
Pyle also said they spend less time on editorial pieces now.
“We don't have to have a house opinion on every single news story that crosses our sensory net, we can wait and focus on the things that are the most important. And, handle it that way,” he said. “It is part of the change in newspapers, nonprofit, or otherwise, we just have to reallocate our resources. And we can't afford to be spending that much staff time, and that many editorials.”
The Salt Lake Tribune is searching for a new executive editor after their former editor Jennifer Napier Pierce resigned in early August.