Both newspapers in Utah's capital to cease daily publication

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Salt Lake City will go from two daily printed newspapers to none after both of its major publications cut print days to once a week in unusual moves for a large city that could portend more struggles for the country's newspaper industry.

The 170-year-old Deseret News in the state capital said Tuesday it will stop publishing daily starting next year, a disclosure that came a day after the Salt Lake Tribune made a similar announcement. 

It's an unusually deep cutback in print days, even in an era of steeply declining revenue, media analyst Ken Doctor said. 

"To go from seven to one just like that and to have it done by both papers in the same city shows us how deep the reckoning is for the American newspaper industry going into 2021," said Doctor, who writes the Newsonomics blog.

The newspaper industry has been in crisis, with The Associated Press finding in 2019 that some 1,400 cities and towns across the U.S. had lost a newspaper over the past 15 years. Much of that has come in smaller markets, though papers in cities such as New Orleans and Pittsburgh have also cut print days less deeply. 

Youngstown, Ohio, became the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper last year -- before the nation's economy was thrown into turmoil by the pandemic. 

In Salt Lake City, both newspapers will continue to publish breaking stories online every day. The Salt Lake Tribune, which won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2017, is not cutting newsroom staff. There were some journalist layoffs at the Deseret News. 

The two publications have a joint-operating agreement that will end later this year. 

Both papers will offer a weekly print publication. The Deseret News will also have a monthly magazine. 

Deseret News Editor Doug Wilks said in an op-ed that the publication owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue its "national leadership role as the watchdog of the family and of faith in the public square."

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted that it's a significant change for the city. 

"It's hard to believe we'll no longer have a daily print paper in SLC," she wrote. "Local journalism is essential to democracy ... I look forward to reading online, but I'll miss both papers dearly."

The Deseret News will lay off six journalists and give severance packages to 18 staffers in visual editing and sales departments. About 160 people associated with the two newspapers' joint print operations will also be laid off.

The Deseret News is named after the territory's early title. The newspaper was born three years after pioneers arrived in 1847. 

The newspaper has worked to expand its digital offerings for a decade, appealing to church members and others outside the state, and now 70% of its digital users come from outside the state, said Jeff Simpson, its president and publisher.