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Citing differences with board chairman, Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce resigns

SHARE Citing differences with board chairman, Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce resigns

Salt Lake Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce, center, managing editor Sheila McCann and courts reporter Jessica Miller listen to oral arguments before the Utah Supreme Court in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. BYU is appealing a 3rd District Court ruling that the private university’s police force is a governmental entity that has to follow the same rules for transparency as other police departments across the state. The issues stem from a records request made under the Government Records Access and Management Act by the Salt Lake Tribune for emails sent by BYU police regarding rape allegations made by a 19-year-old student in 2016.

Francisco Kjolseth

SALT LAKE CITY — Jennifer Napier-Pearce shepherded the Salt Lake Tribune through an ownership change, conversion to nonprofit status, to a 2017 Pulitzer prize and through the recent economic devastation of the pandemic.

But as of Aug. 14, Napier-Pearce will no longer be leading the daily newspaper. A veteran journalist with a long list of accomplishments, she submitted her resignation to the Tribune’s board of directors on Monday and it was accepted Tuesday.

In a letter to the paper’s staff, Napier-Pearce said she’d done everything in her “power to lead the Tribune to a sustainable future and support the newsroom in producing excellent journalism.”

After listing reasons for optimism and pride, she told the staff that conflicts with board chairman Paul Huntsman were the reason she was resigning.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Tribune as the newsroom builds on these successes,” she wrote in a letter obtained by the Deseret News. “But differences of opinion about newsroom coverage, management and policies between the board chair and me have sharpened over the past six months. As much as I would love to stay, it’s time for me to step aside.”

In the staff letter, she thanked Huntsman, who became the paper’s publisher when the Huntsman family, then led by Jon M. Huntsman Sr., purchased the paper from Digital First Media in April 2016.

A Salt Lake Tribune article on Wednesday said Napier-Pearce announced her planned departure to her staff of 70 people on Wednesday. Many of them expressed shock and disappointment that Napier-Pearce was stepping down just as the paper seemed to be gaining momentum, including the announcement of a joint subscription with the New York Times.

The Tribune’s board of directors released a statement Wednesday thanking Napier-Pearce and praising her work at the helm of the paper. 

“Jennifer is an incredibly talented journalist and editor who has led the Salt Lake Tribune through one of the most transformative periods in Tribune history,” Huntsman said in the statement. “Moreover, her leadership during this tumultuous time in our world and our state has been evident through the strong reporting of the entire Tribune team over the past several months.”

Napier-Pearce, who grew up in Magna, and was the first editor of Pacific Island descent and the second woman to lead the paper, started as a reporter in 2013. She left the paper in 2015 to become the associate director of communications at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. But she rejoined the Tribune just months later when the Huntsman family purchased the paper.

David Noyce, Tribune managing editor, will take on the role of interim editor. Noyce has been on the paper’s staff since 1984. The board of directors will search for a new editor “in due course,” the statement said.

Napier-Pearce declined to comment on her departure, but expressed gratitude for her time as Tribune editor in her resignation letter.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the Tribune and its employees and what we have accomplished under very difficult circumstances,” Napier-Pearce wrote in her letter to the board. “I’ve treasured the opportunity to serve as editor and I’m proud to leave the newsroom better than I found it. I will always be a Tribune subscriber and supporter.”