The Salt Lake Tribune has made history by becoming the first legacy newspaper in the nation to become a nonprofit.
In a swift series of events, the Internal Revenue Service accepted The Tribune’s request in full to transition from a for-profit organization to a nonprofit. In a letter dated Oct. 29 deeming the paper a 501(c)(3), it states that The Tribune can now accept tax deductible donations from supporters.
The idea for the shift was brought on by Tribune Owner and Publisher Paul Huntsman, a Utah entrepreneur who bought the paper in 2016. In agreeing to transform the newspaper to the first nonprofit in the U.S., he is also giving up his sole ownership.
“This is a historic moment for The Tribune and a new day for local journalism across the country,” Huntsman said in a press release. “The IRS approval opens up new possibilities for success for legacy newspapers, and we’re excited to move forward with this solution.”
The Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper will couple donations with revenue from advertising subscriptions and a separate foundation, according to an article The Tribune published explaining the change. The Utah Journalism Foundation is also creating an endowment fund for independent journalism in Utah, of which The Tribune will largely benefit.
“The current business model for local newspapers is broken and beyond repair,” Huntsman said in a press release. “We needed to find a way to sustain this vital community institution well beyond my ownership, and nonprofit status will help us do that.”
Huntsman will transfer his ownership of the paper to a public board of directors, which will be fleshed out in the next few months. Huntsman will also be the chairman of that board and promises to protect The Tribune’s journalistic independence by placing a strict “firewall” between board members and the newsroom.
Other than the new nonprofit structure, The Tribune will still operate very similarly to the way it has since 1871. The only exception is that the paper will no longer endorse political candidates.
“We’ll still have (award-winning editorial cartoonist Pat) Bagley, we’ll still have sports analysis and we’ll still have all the hard-hitting investigative reporting readers have come to expect and rely on from The Tribune,” Tribune Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce said in a press release. “The integrity of our reporting and our values as a news organization won’t change, but we will engage with the community in new ways and ask for their support.”
The news is being watched closely by other foundations, such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who are also hoping to spur change in the journalism industry and who believe this could be a potential path forward for other struggling news outlets.
“This is an important decision that recognizes local news as a public good, something that strengthens the community,” Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibarguen said in a press release. “The model pioneered by The Salt Lake Tribune gives community leaders another way to build a sustainable future for local news, so citizens can get the trusted information they need to engage constructively in our democracy.”
Early contributions to the new nonprofit can be made at sltrib.com/donate. All donations will be tax deductible.