Daily Utah Chronicle Faces ‘Really Frightening’ Budget Woes, Turns to ‘Shark Tank’ for Answers

The Daily Utah Chronicle is facing a cash crunch and reader shortage so dramatic an affiliated student media director calls it “really frightening.” One possible solution: “Shark Tank.” Wait, what?

Later this month, the University of Utah Student Media Council — which supervises the Chrony, as it’s known on campus — is staging an all-comers gathering inviting individuals to pitch ideas aimed at keeping the student newspaper alive, innovative, profitable and relevant to 21st-century students. The event is apparently “modeled after the entrepreneurial TV show ‘Shark Tank,'” which airs in primetime each Friday on NBC. 

As the school’s student media director Jake Sorensen tells The Salt Lake City Tribune, the question driving the pitches: “If you were going to build a modern media organization on campus, what would it look like? Just pretend we could start from scratch.”

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Whether the pitches truly rebuild the Chrony or simply scratch the surface of its financial misery, it is clear change is needed. According to the Tribune report, annual advertising revenue for the paper has plummeted almost 50 percent since 2007 (from $700,000 to $370,000). The result is the recent implementation of death by a thousand cuts.

The Tribune: “Cuts have been made this year to deal with the revenue shortfall, including slicing the number of papers printed by about 20 percent, to 8,000 copies Monday through Thursday and 6,000 on Friday. [The editor-in-chief] also trimmed editor salaries, as well as budgets for employee morale and travel to away football games.”

Some of the solutions mentioned by the Trib that may or may not appear during “Shark Week: The Chrony Edition”: a further reduction or complete elimination of staff pay; paring down printing from five issues per week to three; moving to a cheaper printer; attacking the print ad world with renewed vigor and a focus on nabbing ads for a pair of magazines put out by the paper; and aligning with the Department of Communications “to eliminate rent expenses and possibly get more university subsidies” (but potentially lose real or perceived editorial freedom in the process).

The latter is especially worrisome for current Chrony EIC Emily Andrews. As she shares, “I hope it does not turn into something that will so radically alter [the paper], and diminish the educational value for the writers and the reporters and the editors, something that causes the Chronicle to lose the independence we fight really hard to protect.”

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