AP, July 31, 2002
Copyright © 2002 AP Online
By PAUL FOY, AP Business Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (July 31, 2002 6:46 a.m. EDT) – After months of legal wrangling, The Salt Lake Tribune, formed by Mormon dissidents more than a century ago, will soon be in the hands of a company that appears hand-picked by its church-owned rival.
The Tribune, Utah’s largest newspaper, was to be taken over Thursday by Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc., which bought the paper 19 months ago but has been unable to take control because of a complex contract with its longtime executives. MediaNews Group owns The Denver Post and 48 other daily papers.
On Tuesday, an appeals court rejected a request from the newspaper’s former owners to keep control of the publication.
The prospect of the Tribune being taken away from the Kearns-McCarthey family, which has owned it for more than a century, has sent a shudder through Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the Mormon church. The paper has long been considered a counterweight to the church’s influence.
The Deseret News, the Tribune’s church-owned afternoon rival, shares a printing plant, advertising and distribution. That joint operating agreement appears to have given the News the chance to pick its partner. The McCartheys are trying to repurchase the paper; the News is blocking them.
“In Utah there’s this saliva test: Are you a Tribune reader or a Deseret News reader?” said Brigham Young University journalism professor Alf Pratte.
It’s part of a larger debate over the influence wielded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said. “If it’s not the newspapers, it will be the issue of drinking or abortion,” he said.