Salt Lake City’s two major newspapers printed daily editions for more than a century. But now the presses will be whirring only once each week. Like many news organizations, the two Utah papers are shifting their focus online to stay afloat.
Both papers will post news stories on the internet. They’ll each print one newspaper per weekend. The Deseret News will also offer a monthly magazine.
The news industry continues to lose income as advertising and circulation numbers drop. More people are turning to the web or to TV for their news. Newsrooms are laying off some journalists. Many print newspapers and magazines are moving content online to save the cost of paper, ink, press time, and delivery.
Meanwhile, researchers say that printed reading material offers unique benefits. Studies suggest that print readers grasp and remember content better than screen viewers. A reader of print uses multiple senses in addition to sight: The reader hears pages rustle, feels weight and texture, and even sniffs that new (or old) book smell. Using many senses helps memory to imprint in the brain. It also calms and grounds readers in the physical world—a known antidote for bouts of anxiety.
And screens have downsides. Many people experience screen fatigue after using screens all day for work, school, entertainment, and connecting with friends. Blue light emitted by device screens can cause eye strain. It can also disrupt sleep patterns.
The Deseret News president and publisher Jeff Simpson says the paper has been expanding digital offerings for a decade. Now there are nearly 500 times more online readers than local print subscribers.
Both Utah papers have long histories. The Deseret News began three years after pioneers arrived to the area in 1847. It churned out printed papers daily for 170 years. The Salt Lake Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2017 and ran a printed daily for 149 years.
A free, trustworthy press is critically important. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Freedom of the press is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Why is this so essential? The press is meant to inform citizens and hold powerful people and governments accountable. That’s why some repressive governments, like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, censor journalism or even kill or imprison journalists.
Many struggling newspapers and magazines face decisions like the two Utah newspapers. “It won’t be exactly the same. And we hope you think it is better,” The Salt Lake Tribune wrote about adapting to online news. “We assure you that our commitment to the news hasn’t wavered.”