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Deseret News set to lead, innovate

Plan includes staff cuts, new business model and 7-day print publication

SALT LAKE CITY — The Deseret News announced Tuesday work force reductions and unveiled a plan to refocus the quality and reach of its product.

"Changes in the industry have forced some newspapers to fade or even close," said Clark Gilbert, Deseret News CEO and president. "At the Deseret News, we choose to lead and innovate."

Part of that leadership, he added, is the willingness to make hard choices.

"Today we have announced the reduction in our print work force by 57 full-time and 28 part-time employees, which reflects just over 43 percent of our work force," Gilbert said.

Gilbert called the decision to reduce staff "enormously difficult."

"We honor all the outstanding contributions that have added to the great heritage of the Deseret News," he said. "This makes these decisions even more difficult."

At the same time, he said, the Deseret News is now positioned to print a daily newspaper into the foreseeable future and expand its reach and influence throughout the world.

These changes, Gilbert added, make one thing certain: "The Deseret News will run as a daily newspaper for the foreseeable future."

Other leading industry executives recognize the need for change.

"All of us involved in the newspaper business have been challenged to adapt our traditional newspaper business model to our new realities," said Mark Contreras, senior vice president of E.W. Scripps, chairman of the Newspaper Association of America. "The Deseret News team has showed courageous leadership, not just to make the difficult decisions around costs, but to define a broader and more digitally focused future."

Gilbert said change is necessary because innovation and technology have fundamentally changed the newspaper industry.

"There are exciting and wonderful elements to the Internet as it has expanded the reach of news and information to a level never before possible. But those same changes have altered the fundamental business model and print publishing. In particular, classified advertising nationally has collapsed in most markets."

In response, the Deseret News unveiled a five-part plan "to become a leader in the industry and a model for change," said Gilbert.

First, the newspaper will integrate its newsroom with KSL, creating the market's largest news coverage team. This integration gives both organizations more reporters on the ground covering more stories than any other local news source. As part of the integration, the Deseret News staff will move to the Triad Center "to promote greater synergy in coverage and operations," said Gilbert.

Second, the Deseret News will increase in-depth coverage from the organization's strong journalists on relevant issues audiences care most about.

Third, the Deseret News has created a new editorial advisory board, a group of renowned industry leaders who will provide breadth and depth in opinion and thought through editorial guidance. These leaders are spread across the country, allowing the Deseret News to expand nationally in nature and scope.

Fourth, the newspaper has launched Deseret Connect, an innovative system to collect writers and editors who will provide high-quality, relevant stories on a regular basis. "The content will be qualified, edited and peer reviewed," said Gilbert. "We have attracted people from across the nation with impeccable credentials and the highest respect of their peers." Deseret Connect will complement journalists working at the Deseret News.

Fifth, the Deseret News has created a cutting edge digital team "that is on par with the most innovative new media companies in the country," said Gilbert.

"What is remarkable about what is happening at the Deseret News is that they are becoming Exhibit A for the future of news in this country," said Clayton M. Christensen, a nationally recognized new media leader and professor at Harvard Business School who recently chose to join the paper's editorial advisory board. "I would expect you will see the Deseret News become the model of growth and innovation for the entire industry."

Gilbert said underlying all these changes is a renewed commitment to the Deseret News' mission and values.

Print readership of the Deseret News grew by 20 percent in 2009, the highest growth rate of any newspaper in the country. attracts the most traffic of any online newspaper site in Utah, serving approximately 24 million page views to nearly 2 million unique visitors per month, according to Deseret News' online analytics.

"Our readers have been clear that they want more than information," Gilbert continued. "They crave and deserve insight, context and thought leadership relevant to the events and issues of the day from sources they trust. The values we champion are time-honored concepts that belong to people of goodwill around the world. Our new direction positions us to deliver on the expectations of our current and future readers."

Gilbert said the Deseret News will bring a distinct voice to the marketplace — a voice that is driven by its values. As part of the entire vision, six areas of focus have emerged from these values.

The family.

Financial responsibility.

Excellence in education.

Care for the needy.

Values in the media.

Faith in the community.

Deseret News editor Joe Cannon said the changes will take advantage of technology without leaving behind good, old-fashioned newspaper work.

"I believe the new direction we are taking is going to pay rich dividends for our readers and is also going to create a model for the expanded reach and influence of the Deseret News," Cannon said.