This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Newspapers are not Broadway plays. There is no out-of-town tryout before bringing the production to the big city. If a paper launches something new, it's going to be judged from the first day.
The first day of the new Deseret News after the layoffs of 43 percent of the newsroom staff, and the reliance on "remote experts" and other new sources of information wasn't too smooth, at least in the view of Salt Lake Tribune columnist Peg McEntee.
McEntee notes one of the lead stories in today's Deseret News, about an agreement reached between Mormon and Jewish leaders to keep the LDS Church's doctrine of "proxy baptism" from being applied to victims of the Holocaust, was credited to Michael Purdy who is not a journalist but a member of the public-affairs department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (The LDS Church owns the D-News' parent company, Deseret Media Companies.)
A disclaimer to that effect appears at the end of the article in today's print edition, but it wasn't there when the story first appeared online Wednesday. Later, the story appeared online without a byline, and still later reappeared with Purdy's name and the disclaimer.
McEntee offered the paper the benefit of the doubt. "It likely was a rookie mistake for the paper's new bosses, many of them businessmen and business professors and consultants who have been taking control over the past several months," McEntee wrote.
As for the on-again, off-again byline, McEntee opined, "I'm guessing there was a day-long discussion in that newsroom about the virtue of transparency."
Another aspect of the D-News' new plan, to integrate its reporters with the staff of KSL TV and radio (also owned by Deseret Media Companies), is being closely watched by industry experts.
Alan Mutter, a former Chicago Sun-Times editor who writes the popular "Reflections of a Newsosaur" blog, writes that the merger of newspaper and TV newsrooms may be the next big trend in propping up cash-strapped news outlets if it works.
The track record is slim, Mutter writes, and not very promising. Mutter points to a 10-year joint venture by the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV, whose website TBO.com he called "underwhelming."
"Instead of combining the assets of the newspaper and TV station in a single, dynamic website, TBO.Com is primarily a compendium of cheesy police news and out-of-market AP stories," Mutter writes. "If you follow the breadcrumbs on the website to the separate pages for the TV station and newspaper, you get nothing more than the sort of shovelware that populates the website of a mediocre broadcaster or publisher in a mid-sized market."
The industry will continue to watch the Deseret News' new path not to say "I told you so" if it doesn't work, but to steal ideas if it does work.