The Deseret News in Salt Lake City, UT announced major changes to its operations, including staff cuts. As part of the reworking, the daily newspaper will tap the resources of KSL-AM, FM & TV. All are owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Deseret News CEO and President Clark Gilbert unveiled several new initiatives Tuesday, including the creation of Deseret Connect, a broad and uniquely qualified group of story contributors, a new Editorial Advisory Board and the expansion of the news reporter base to include professionals currently working with sister company KSL Television and NewsRadio. These initiatives will increase the depth and quality of the Deseret News’ daily newspaper, he said. As part of these changes, however, the organization also announced a reduction in workforce. And Publisher Jim Wall announced his departure.
“We are in a period of massive innovation,” said Gilbert. “Audiences are migrating from traditional newspapers to digital news sources, which allows us to reach more audiences than ever before. These shifts have caused some newspapers to simply cut costs, causing them to fade in influence. We choose to innovate and lead. Today we announce a five-part plan for our future.”
#1 — The expansion of news coverage capabilities by integrating resources with KSL. This coordinated newsroom will create the largest news reporter base in the state, the announcement said.
#2 — More in depth coverage from the organization’s strong journalists on relevant issues audiences care most about, including voices the Deseret News audiences has come to trust, such as Dick Harmon, Jay Evensen, Lee Benson and Ann Cannon.
#3 — A new editorial advisory board, a world-class group of renowned thought leaders who will provide Deseret News readers with breadth and depth in opinion and insight through editorial guidance.
#4 — The launch of Deseret Connect, a collection of remote experts who will provide high-quality, relevant stories on a regular basis. This content will be qualified, edited and peer reviewed.
#5 — Digital innovation and a world-class web team that brings specialized skill sets for the newspaper’s online product.
As for the workforce cuts, The Deseret News says an “unfortunate but necessary part of the new direction will result in a 43% reduction in workforce effective immediately, which represents 57 full time employees and 28 part time employees. A number of these employees will be part of a transition team for the next few months. All employees affected will receive a separation package which the newspaper says “is generous by industry standards,” and outplacement services to assist them in this change.
RBR-TVBR observation: Even an entrenched non-profit organization like the Mormon Church faces difficulties maintaining the #2 daily newspaper in an American city. The advantage for The Deseret News is that it attracts online readership by Mormons around the globe, so it may stand a better chance than most of survival in the digital age.