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Deseret News: The future is about more

New offerings, bigger vision announced as leading media voice positions for new year

The Deseret News today announces the next step in its digital transformation as it continues to build its daily news report, expands its national leadership role as the watchdog of the family and of faith in the public square, and brings outstanding, in-depth journalism and commentary to its growing readership.

These aren’t just platitudes or wasted words. We’ve been working at this directly for more than a decade — 10 years of our 170-year history — expanding our readership into the millions, increasing our reach across Utah and bursting our borders as a vital independent media voice from coast to coast.

We are building on our position as the premier news source from the Intermountain West with trusted, in-depth perspectives and points of view that provide a window into the principles, policies and values that create thriving communities.

“Deseret News is the clear national leader when it comes to coverage of family issues in America. Between its sponsorship of the American Family Survey and its thorough coverage of family scholarship and family policy, no newspaper in America compares to the Deseret News,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Our readers know our history: We are called Deseret because that was the name of the territory the early pioneers gave it when they arrived in 1847. Three years later the Deseret News was born as a “small weekly sheet.” Today we announce that in the new year we will add a weekly print version for Utah readers, a separate weekly print newspaper for those beyond Utah’s borders and a monthly print magazine to be called Deseret.

Our daily print newspaper, which accompanies our award-winning daily news report at Deseret.com, will be discontinued in favor of expanded daily digital offerings and the newly announced print newspapers and magazine. Additionally, we will continue to innovate as we grow our email newsletters with news, perspectives and our unique content coming directly to your inbox every day.

“We are in a unique position because for years now our digital readership has dwarfed our print readership and the great majority of the remaining print readers have become digital first,” said Jeff Simpson, president and publisher of the Deseret News. There are nearly 500 times the number of digital users on Deseret.com than local print subscribers.

“Over the past two years alone, our digital users have nearly doubled across our various platforms and 70% of that group are from outside Utah,” Simpson said.

In 2010, Ken Doctor, a leading media industry analyst, offered this sobering observation in his groundbreaking book, “Newsonomics”:

“The old news world is gone. Get over it.”

We did, painful as that was at the time. We went down two paths, expanding our digital offerings by bringing in digital experts to guide us, and combining the journalism skills of the Deseret News and KSL, our sister broadcast company, to build one of the nation’s strongest multiplatform newsrooms.

We also increased our commitment to in-depth journalism, becoming the go-to source for not just family policy, but for coverage of religious liberty (“How 140 bills across the country are redefining religious freedom”), and going behind the scenes to explain why things are happening as they are (The last statesman: Can Jon Huntsman Jr. keep the art of diplomacy alive?”).

We are part of the Solutions Journalism Network, shining a light in dark places but then bringing innovative solutions to readers (Why Oslo’s ‘greedy method’ may be the answer to Utah’s air pollution woes) and spent two months profiling 50 “People of the Pandemic” from Utah and the nation with unique often gut-wrenching stories. We’ve chronicled the Utah pandemic story (The day everything changed), went deep six months later (Six months of COVID-19 in Utah: What have we learned and what’s next) and continue to look at the successes and mistakes the state is making as the pandemic races toward winter.

Meanwhile, journalism business models continued to be challenged, requiring diversification.

With this week’s announcement confirming the end of the Joint Operating Agreement with The Salt Lake Tribune at the end of the year, we are ready to move into the next exciting phase of journalism.

Some newspapers are dying, shutting down or are being so challenged their operations are struggling to cover the news. Doctor, the media analyst, notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that process for many as advertising dollars have disappeared.

We are not immune to those pressures. But that’s not us. We want to do more, not less. We want to lead, not react. Together with our partners at KSL.com, our journalists reach 90% of Utah every month. And as we expand our reach nationally, our position at the crossroads of the West will grow to crossroads of the nation. Is this the end of daily news? No, it’s an expansion of our daily in-depth news and commentary, coming to you where you’ve told us you want it.

“Our goals are audacious and our position unique,” my colleague, Deseret News Opinion Editor Boyd Matheson, said. “We embrace founding principles as the best way to heal the country, foster freedom, promote justice and erase inequality. We are bringing the nation’s thought leaders to our readers and convening critical conversations with voices from across the political spectrum.” Some of those voices during the past year alone include Theresa Dear, a national board member of the NAACP; Vice President Mike Pence; Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris; pollster Scott Rasmussen; and many more.

The year 2020 has been tremendously challenging for everyone. Our journalists have worked remotely since March and will continue into the new year. We’re looking forward to 2021 — year 171 for the Deseret News.