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Salt Lake Tribune becomes first legacy paper to convert to nonprofit

Salt Lake Tribune becomes first legacy paper to convert to nonprofit

The Salt Lake Tribune announced Monday it received approval from the Internal Revenue Service to convert to a nonprofit publication.

In a tweet, Thomas Burr, the paper's Washington bureau chief, said the Tribune was the "first legacy newspaper to make the jump."

The Tribune will now be a 501(c)(3). According to the paper, the move was backed by Paul Huntsman, the Tribune's owner.

“The current business model for local newspapers is broken and beyond repair,” Huntsman said, according to the paper. “We needed to find a way to sustain this vital community institution well beyond my ownership, and nonprofit status will help us do that.”

The paper will begin accepting donations and will still earn revenue from subscriptions and advertising.

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The switch is seen as a possible precedent for other papers that may be struggling financially, and it comes as local newspapers face new challenges.

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet predicted earlier this year that "most local newspapers are going to die in the next five years."

"The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news," Baquet said at the International News Media Association World Congress in New York City on Friday. "I don't know what the answer is.

"Their economic model is gone. I think most local newspapers in America are going to die in the next five years, except for the ones that have been bought by a local billionaire," he continued.

Baquet said he worried about the impact of these changes outside the nation's largest cities.

"I’m not worried about Los Angeles and New York. I don’t know what the model is for covering the school boards in Newark, N.J. That makes me nervous," he said.

Local newspapers across the country have been plagued by layoffs in the digital era, and several struggling publications have been sold to hedge fund-led entities.

Digital First Media, for example, owns approximately 200 publications across the country, including the Boston Herald, Denver Post and Detroit News. All have experienced considerable layoffs in recent years. Papers have seen revenue decreases largely due to drops in print advertising and an increasingly oversaturated market in the digital space.

More than half of the largest newspapers in the U.S. have laid off employees since January 2017, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study.

Pew found that nine of the 16 newspapers with circulations of 250,000 or more, or 56 percent, had experienced layoffs during a 16-month period ending in April 2018.