Both capital newspapers print final daily editions
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City's two major newspapers have printed daily editions for more than a century, but now the presses will only be whirring once a week as they join other news organizations nationwide in shifting their focus online to stay afloat.
The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News printed their final daily newspapers Dec. 31 as they joined others like the Tampa Bay Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that made the same decision in response to declining print and circulation revenues that have upended the industry and led to a new era of journalism.
The Tribune, which won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2017, will continue to publish breaking stories online every day but do only one print newspaper each week on Sunday. The newspaper had printed daily for 149 years.
The Deseret News will also post news stories daily on its website, print one newspaper every weekend and also offer a monthly magazine, which will debut in January. The newspaper had printed papers daily throughout its 170-year history.
The Tribune's new weekly publication is expected to showcase the reporters' best enterprise work and in-depth stories, as well as obituaries and expanded editorial content.
The decision came after two recent ownership changes: the paper was purchased in 2016 by Paul Huntsman, son of the late billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. and brother to former U.S-Russia Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr.
The decision also ends a joint operating agreement with the Deseret News, which is owned by the state's predominant faith — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The agreement, once common when many cities had two newspapers, had the two publications cooperating on printing, delivery and advertising but not news content.
Governor rejects call for online learning
PHOENIX — Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey has rejected the state's top education official's call for Ducey to order public schools to use only online instruction for the first two weeks of January unless they have waivers from health officials.
Amid a coronavirus surge in the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Jan. 2 that schools need a two-week "quarantine period" while educators and local officials review health data and decide what type of instruction is appropriate for their communities.
A spokesman for the governor said Ducey wouldn't issue the order because how schools open is a local decision.
Arizona on Jan. 2 reported nearly 8,900 additional known COVID-19 cases and 46 deaths. It had the country’s second-highest positive rate among residents tested, behind California.
Ducey, a Republican, and Hoffman, a Democrat, were aligned last spring when he ordered schools closed because of the coronavirus, but she voiced reservations later as he urged schools to provide in-person learning. Guidelines issued by Ducey's administration during the fall let students remain in in-person classes beyond what earlier guidance would have recommended.
Many Arizona school districts in recent months have provided hybrid learning that includes both distanced and in-person instruction, while others either were already on remote learning or returning to it this month.
Businesses sue over coronavirus restrictions
SANTA FE — A group of businesses has sued in federal court to try to end New Mexico's public health order, claiming Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials have imposed arbitrary and unnecessary rules in response to the pandemic.
It's the latest legal challenge to the governor's public health order. Earlier in 2020, the state Supreme Court backed her authority to restrict activities.
The lawsuit filed in the last week of December asks the U.S. District Court to override the governor's executive orders and limit any future public health orders to "an extremely limited period of time" unless authorized by state lawmakers. It also asks that the plaintiffs be compensated for lost income during the lockdowns.
The plaintiffs include three Albuquerque businesses, a Silver City resort and a number of individuals, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
The health order limits capacity at grocery stores and other essential businesses, allows only for curbside pickup and delivery by restaurants, prohibits public gatherings and mandates mask wearing, among other things.
The lawsuit contends that the mandates are out of proportion to the virus's true severity.
Confirmed COVID-19 infections in New Mexico have topped 141,000, while deaths have surpassed 2,430.
State leans on outdoor recreation for economic recovery
CARLSBAD — New Mexico officials are hoping an appetite for outdoor recreation during the coronavirus pandemic will help the state's economy recover.
The New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division requested more funding for outdoor programs and support initiatives to be considered during the next legislative session scheduled to begin in January, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.
The division, under the state's Economic Development Department, requested more than $3 million to fund its Great New Mexico Trails Package, which would provide funding to local communities and agencies who have plans to develop and maintain hiking trails statewide.
The division also requested about $1 million for the Outdoor Equity Fund to support programs intended to give funding to youth programs that center on outdoor recreation.
Division Director Axie Navas said outdoor recreation was one of the state's fastest-growing industries and would "be key to our recovery.” She said the one-time appropriation could “jump-start communities."
Navas said outdoor recreation represents more than $2 billion in state gross domestic product and employs up to 35,000 residents. By bolstering the industry, the state could preserve its natural resources while diversifying the economy that currently relies on the fossil fuel industry, she said.
Judge: Groups can't challenge endangered species plans
JACKSON — An environmental group has no legal standing to challenge the specifics of recovery plans for endangered species, a judge in Montana has ruled.
The case began with a 2014 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity that asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revise and update its then-21-year-old species recovery plan for threatened grizzly bears in the contiguous United States.
Federal wildlife managers declined and the Center took the issue to court. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled Dec. 23 that endangered species recovery plans are guidelines, not rules that can be challenged in court.
While the case was brought against the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, several other entities intervened including the states of Wyoming and Idaho along with farm and ranch groups. The Mountain States Legal Foundation represented the Wyoming Stock Growers.
Mountain States Legal Foundation said in a news release that a loss in the case could have “opened the floodgates for new litigation” over hundreds of other species.
In its 2014 petition, the Center for Biological Diversity asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update its recovery plan and add several new areas of historic grizzly bear range as potential recovery areas.
Although Fish and Wildlife denied the 2014 petition, the agency did update recovery plans for grizzlies in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, a federal grizzly bear biologist concluded that reintroduction of grizzly bears in Colorado's San Juan and California's Sierra Nevada ranges would likely fail due to a lack of core habitat.
Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the organization is considering an appeal.