Deseret News Refuses to Run Utah Newspaper Project Ad

May 2, 2014

A group concerned about the future of the Salt Lake Tribune submitted an ad to both of the city’s daily newspapers to run on Saturday morning. But readers won’t see it in the Deseret News. 

The Utah Newspaper Project is an organization that is challenging the legality of current joint operating agreement between the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.  That agreement or JOA as it is sometimes called, was renegotiated last year by the parent companies of both newspapers and among other provisions, a new revenue sharing plan was forged that cut the Salt Lake Tribune’s profits in half. Joan O’Brien is a founder of the Utah Newspaper Project.  She submitted an ad to both papers hoping to draw attention to her group’s cause.

“The way the joint operating agreement works is you have to pay for ad that goes into both newspapers.  They sent it up to the publisher of the Deseret News and they rejected it and the publisher of the Tribune did not reject it. So it’s the larger paper, the most eyes, but we didn’t get any kind of a discount for the fact that forty percent of the two newspapers’ reader won’t be able to see it,” says O’Brien.

O’Brien was charged more than $1800 because ad sales representatives deemed  her ad to come from an advocacy organization.  Commercial ads of the same size usually run about $1000.  Officials with the U.S. Justice Department have confirmed they investigating the JOA between the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.  O’Brien maintains the that the agreement violates federal anti-trust law.  Clark Gilbert, President and CEO of the Deseret News, did not return requests for comment.