Mormon Church Being Investigated By U.S. Government For Trying To Destroy Salt Lake Tribune Newspaper
PHOTO: The Triad Center, pictured above, is a business complex located in Salt Lake City, Utah, owned by Deseret Management Corporation, a for-profit division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The complex is currently home to the Deseret News newspaper headquarters, among other Mormon-affiliated (LDS) companies.
The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming!
In its most recent media-related conspiracy, the Mormon (LDS) Church is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations they are paying off the hedge-fund-owned Salt Lake Tribune newspaper to slowly ‘kill’ itself, in a shady deal to cede the Utah market to the LDS-managed publication Deseret News.
Opportunism Of Hedge-Fund-Owned Media
According to a detailed report by the Columbia Journalism Review last week:
The deal, an amendment struck last fall to a longstanding Joint Operating Agreement, would give the News 70 percent of the print revenues generated by the two papers, in return for the payment, the amount of which is undisclosed. The onetime payment, critics claim, would benefit the New York parent, Digital First Media, owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, while choking off revenue needed to sustain the Tribune‘s newsroom.
The Tribune, run by New York-based Digital First Media, has been owned by hedge-fund Alden Global Capital since being acquired in 2010 after emerging from bankruptcy.
“The hedge fund guys get what they want, which is a big pile of cash,” says Jim Dabakis, a Utah state senator who this week started an online petition asking the Justice Department to reverse the deal. “And the Deseret News gets what it wants, its generations-long dream [fulfilled] to extinguish the other voice in the community. And they get a monopoly from now on.”
Joan O’Brien, an ex-Tribune reporter who now teaches has taught media law and runs a local group opposed to the amended JOA, wrote a detailed letter to the Justice Department saying the pact will cripple the Tribune, “drastically intensifying the media monopoly power of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Northern Utah.”
Jim Dabakis, an openly-gay state senator from Salt Lake City – and an ex-Mormon who left the church several years ago – is responsible for creating the SaveTheTribune.com online petition last week opposing the deal, which may have increased scrutiny of the situation by the Justice Department. Because the agreement is already in effect, the only way it could be revised would be with direct federal anti-trust involvement.
The Tribune itself reported on the Justice investigation earlier this month, recalling an interesting court filing discovered by O’Brien:
She said the DOJ attorney sought background on documents referring to what one News official in a court filing called “an ingenious plan” more than 15 years ago to alter the Tribune-News operating partnership to make it easier for the News to acquire The Tribune without drawing opposition from federal regulators. According to an Oct. 15, 2001, court deposition by L. Glen Snarr, then-chairman of Deseret News Publishing Co., the plan involved the News buying additional shares of the newspapers’ revenue split and greater management control of joint operations. The strategy was developed, Snarr testified at the time, because the Federal Communications Commission appeared likely to challenge the News’ purchase of The Tribune, given the LDS Church’s existing ownership of other Utah broadcast and print outlets.
Of course, if the Tribune files for bankruptcy again, or is simply shut down by its current hedge-fund owner, it would serve the goals of the LDS Church quite nicely while conveniently avoiding any anti-trust litigation.
Repeated Instances Of Mormon Censorship
In response to the growing discussion last week, the Deseret News posted a letter to its readers attempting to clarify its joint operating agreement in an apparent effort to assuage concerns among Utahans regarding a Mormon-dominated market, while taking a swipe at Tribune instability, declaring: “It is the responsibility of news organizations to innovate and adapt to the evolving media landscape.”
The situation is of special interest to CollegeTimes, due to our previous accusations that the Salt Lake Tribune regularly offers abnormally favorable coverage of for-profit Neumont University, an unaccredited technical institute with shady investor connections to the Mormon (LDS) Church in Utah. Neumont, who tried unsuccessfully to sue CollegeTimes in 2012 for hosting negative student reviews of the controversial school, moved into the former Tribune office building in Salt Lake City in late 2013, which seems to have contributed even further to the rather secretive relationship between the college and the increasingly unstable news publication.
The history of the Salt Lake Tribune is notoriously absurd. Founded in 1870 as the Mormon Tribune, the newspaper has since gone through dozens of ownership changes and content strategies. In 1873, it was bought by 3 Kansas businessmen who turned the Tribune into an anti-Mormon rag. In 1901 it was secretly purchased by U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns, who was trying to win favor from Utah Mormons who had elected him to office. The Tribune has held a Joint Operating Agreement with the Deseret News since the 1950’s, despite endlessly changing editorial positions regarding the LDS Church.