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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Author: Elise Goldstein

Local News Now case study: Salt Lake Tribune

In conjunction with our ethics conference, “Journalism Ethics & Local News Now” (April 23, 2021), we are publishing case studies of each news organizations represented on our panel “Innovations in Local News.”

The Salt Lake Tribune


The Salt Lake Tribune’s mission is to serve as Utah’s independent voice and to tell stories that are interesting, important and inclusive. The Salt Lake Tribune is also in a unique position. It’s the only major metro legacy news organization to transition into a nonprofit organization and the first to get IRS approval, which took place in October 2019. According to Executive Director Lauren Gustus, the past year has brought still more changes. In December of 2020, The Tribune separated from its partner news organization, Deseret News, and from a 70-year old arrangement wherein a company sold papers and advertising on behalf of both organizations. “We’re 150 years old in 2021, but it feels as though we are a startup,” Gustus said.


Once owned by a hedge fund, the Salt Lake Tribune’s transition to a nonprofit organization has been a major project.

Lauren Gustus
Lauren Gustus

A large part of the transition has been identifying a board for the newsroom, deciding how to position the board publicly and what transparency with the public should look like. “Ultimately, it was important to us as journalists that we publicly state that the board has no day-to-day oversight of the operations of the news organization,” Gustus said. This way, both the journalists and the public know that what it does is not impacted by the board. 

Identifying donors was also a major component of the transition. The newsroom decided to share information about their major donors on their website updates the list on a quarterly basis. Anyone who has donated to the news organization can also be found on their 990 form.


The Salt Lake Tribune recently launched an Innovation Lab, which is a three person team dedicated to covering how Utah is set to double in population in the next 30 years. The premise of the project is that elected officials aren’t able to solve everything. Entirely supported by philanthropy, the lab looks at current and upcoming challenges and works to provide solutions for issues related to the state’s growth.

Other projects include the Utah News Collaborative, which focuses on how to get more journalism to more communities given that Utah has gone from 450 journalists to fewer than 200. This project aims to talk with publishers up and down the state of Utah and especially in rural communities. Participating news organizations can also publish daily stories from The Tribune on their sites and in print. “We are continuing to prepare for that accountability collaboration launch, which will officially lift off with all of the partners this month. We’re pretty excited about where we might take that,” Gustus said. 


“If there’s a north star for us, it’s sustainability,” Gustus said. “Can the Tribune be profitable as a non-profit, such that we can demonstrate that this model works?” To do that, Gustus explained that the newsroom needs to more deeply understand what their readers are telling them and what people and Utah want from them. 

Gustus said that the different beats within the Tribune need to listen to feedback from readers, and to have those conversations one-to-one, so that the newsroom is truly in service to the state of Utah. Gustus believes that this effort will lead to more digital support, digital subscriber growth, donor support and advertising support, which will ultimately get the newsroom to greater economic sustainability in 2021.

Top Projects

The Salt Lake Tribune Podcasts 

Innovation Lab

Additional Info

Inside The Salt Lake Tribune’s plans to become a nonprofit (Lenfest Institute)

Meet The Salt Lake Tribune, 501(c)(3): The IRS has granted nonprofit status to a daily newspaper for the first time (Nieman Lab)

Local News Now case study: WURD Radio

In conjunction with our ethics conference, “Journalism Ethics & Local News Now” (April 23, 2021), we are publishing case studies of each news organizations represented on our panel “Innovations in Local News.”

WURD Radio


Founded in 2002, WURD Radio is the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and one of few in the country. It has become a multimedia company that has several platforms including: 900AM, 96.1FM,, the WURD App,, and Lively-HOOD. It was founded on the principle that communication and dialogue are central components to empowerment. WURD serves as the pulse of Philadelphia’s African-American community by providing information and solutions that educate, uplift and inspire others.

The Problem

There have always been and still are several gaps in the media landscape, but the most profound gap that WURD Radio seeks to fill, according to President and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese, is for African Americans to be able to tell their own stories from their own perspective and creating a space where Black people can speak and be heard in their own voice. WURD Radio is exceptionally powerful because in its two-way talk radio format, it’s able to collectively wrestle with big problems as a community. A lot of people tune into WURD, making it a real opportunity for different views and perspectives to be heard. 

In a world where opportunity is seen as “top-down,” WURD Radio provides access to opportunities and real leadership in the media space. It acts as a training ground for people to come right out of college and learn, or to come at an intermediate point in their career and advance. WURD Radio proudly looks at the whole person and not just “at the boxes that need to be checked,” making the organization flexible and patient in preparing people for jobs in media.

Head shot of Sara Lomax-Reese
Sara Lomax-Reese


WURD Radio’s main innovation is to serve Philadelphia’s African-American community and beyond by providing information and solutions that educate and boost the community. The team creates product offerings that attract new and different audiences, and they test and learn to better serve the community. WURD Radio has also been successful in securing grants, which has allowed the company to grow.

The newsroom creates content for radio, television, video streams and social media platforms. They are also an environmentally conscious media outlet, with EcoWURD hosting weekly segments on environmental justice, Earth Day special programming and an Environmental Justice Summit  hosted annually on Indigenous People’s Day to explore topics at the intersection of Black and Indigenous rights, income, and the environment and to discuss climate change, land reclamation and water quality in the Philadelphia area. 

WURD Radio also has a jobs and workforce development initiative called Lively-Hood, which is designed to address high poverty and unemployment rates in Philadelphia’s Black community. This initiative uses its platforms to connect Philadelphians to jobs, career readiness information and entrepreneurial resources. 

WURD Radio is also an inaugural member in the new BIPOC network called URL Media, which stands for Uplift, Respect and Love. URL is a network of high performing Black and Brown owned media organizations that can share content and revenues with each other. Its purpose is to amplify and aggregate content as a community. This venture is in partnership with other news organizations in the country, and Lomax-Reese pointed out that a large part of their business model has been partnerships. “It’s not anyone, but everyone,” Lomax-Reese said.


Overall, Lomax-Reese believes that WURD Radio has been successful. She is proud of the fact that WURD has always been “half a step ahead of each growth spurt,” especially with multimedia platforms. For example, in 2020 WURD Radio launched a podcast series called OnWURD 2020 in Black, which is a four-part podcast retrospective of big issues that WURD encountered in 2020 as a news station. It discusses independent Black media, COVID-19, racial justice uprisings and the 2020 election while documenting their work. 

WURD Radio has also faced challenges along the way. “How you start matters,” Lomax-Reese said. She discussed how each business owner should be properly capitalized at the outset of a business launch, and that each business owner needs to learn to build and grow organically, which isn’t easy. 

WURD Radio was purchased by Lomax-Reese’s father, Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr., in 2002. Over the years, the station had several leaders but struggled to develop a successful business model.  In 2010,  Lomax-Reese was asked by her family to take over the leadership of the organization to see if she could turn it around. She encountered many obstacles, one of them significant: convincing the corporate community to support a radio station that served a community they didn’t care about. Even though Philadelphia is almost 45% African American, there was very limited support from corporate and government stakeholders at that time.  But in 2020, with the racial justice protests,  the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election, WURD’s ability to reach and mobilize Philadelphia’s Black communities was undeniable, helping them turn a corner. Lomax-Reese is proud of the progress that has been made, but knows that there is still much work to be done.

Top Projects

Heard on WURD: Nick Taliaferro Interviews Dr. Ashish Jha 

The Spirit of a King: Living the Legacy of the Activist Clergyperson 

#BlackWURDS Book Club With Nick Taliaferro

Additional Info

URL Media launches to help sustain “high-performing Black and brown media organizations” (Nieman Lab)

WURD Radio on Violence (Lenfest Institute)