If you are a long-time follower of the Tribulations of the Trib, the change in leadership at Utah’s top daily Friday probably knocked the wind out of you.
Long-time editor Terry Orme has been canned and replaced with Jennifer Napier-Pearce, former Trib multi-media specialist, who had left the paper a few weeks ago for a PR job at the Hinckley Institute.
Now, Napier-Pearce is back as commander and chief of sorely troubled The Salt Lake Tribune.
It was a decision by Paul Huntsman, the paper’s new owner, and offers some insight into his plans for the paper:
1. Huntsman’s willing to make drastic changes at the Trib. (Good sign.)
2. He’s willing to make those changes in top management/editorial positions, not just among the reporters and lower-level editors. (Good sign.)
3. He replaced an old-school daily newspaper veteran with a leader whose experience comes from other media—radio and video, at least, if not digital reporting and publishing. Napier-Pearce is probably more open to digital news gathering and promotion, which is the Trib’s only hope.
4. With Orme gone, changes can be made in other positions at the paper that were protected by Orme’s sentimental blindness to the failings of some staff members. (Some would call it cronyism.)
On the downside:
5. Napier-Pearce does not have much print journalism experience. (Something that is causing much angst today in the newsroom.) But the good probably outweighs the bad. The Trib can’t move forward until it gets unstuck from print-journalism thinking. (See #3)
6. Napier-Pearce is married to a State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce, a former Trib lawyer with ties state government. Whether this could be a conflict of interest is unlikely—but possible.
7. Though Napier-Pearce has the potential to shake things up and drag the Trib into digital journalism (screaming, and dragging its feet—see #9), it’s unclear if she has the management experience and grit to make changes and, more importantly, stand up to the Huntsman family when they want to play with their new electric train.
8. Changing editors is only a small step toward making the Trib, in its present configuration, profitable into the future. And the Trib may have to drastically recreate itself and its mission (See SLMag’s look to the future of journalism in Salt Lake City.) And more layoffs are probably likely.
9. The Trib’s newsroom culture has a penchant for undercutting new leadership that threatens the status quo. Initially, there was grumbling in the newsroom about her appointment and lack of newspaper experience. Napier-Pearce, an intelligent and humane person, may be forced to make tough decisions that include firing, reshuffling writers and slapping down resistance. Can she do it?
10. Oh yeah, she’s the first Mormon editor in the paper’s history. This is, of course, HUGE.