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Holly Mullen, a former columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune who resigned in December, has been named editor of the Salt Lake City Weekly alternative newspaper.

An official announcement is expected today.

Mullen replaces Ben Fulton, who had been in the position for more than three years. His future at the paper is uncertain, said John Saltas, founder and executive editor. Fulton could not be reached for comment.

"I've known Holly well over a decade, and felt an earnestness that she might come to work here someday," Saltas said. "We wanted her here."

Mullen said Saltas and publisher Jim Rizzi contacted her about the position for the 60,500-circulation paper. Details of her responsibilities are being worked out, but Mullen said she will be expected to run the day-to-day operations, as well as write features and a weekly editorial or column.

She had written a three-times-a-week column at The Tribune for five years before quitting when an editor pulled her column about the rescue of a dolphin in China. In her final column, Mullen wrote that her responsibilities were confined to local issues, but she also thought readers occasionally wanted topics "reaching as far as France, China and Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains."

Mullen, who previously had worked at two alternative newspapers, said she decided to return to that format because the publications are enticing younger readers at a greater rate than traditional daily newspapers. Their niche "is the one business in the newspaper industry that's growing instead of declining," she said.

Saltas said the previous editor, Fulton, is on extended leave. If he decides to return, "we hope to make a fit for him," Saltas said.

Fulton had been interim editor at City Weekly three times before being named editor in September 2003. In 1996, he bridged the gap after Tom Walsh left; in the fall of 2002, when he filled in after Christopher Smart returned to The Tribune; and in 2003, he took over after John Yewell was fired.

Saltas had written at the time of Fulton's last appointment that he had a "keen eye for our type of stories," but that Fulton also bore the "curse of being only nearly perfect." Saltas wrote that in naming Fulton as editor, he was appointing both men - the professional and the "quirky" Fultons.