John Saltas launched The Private Eye in the mid 1980s to advertise music venues and shows in downtown Salt Lake City. Later renaming it City Weekly, Saltas has been at its helm for thirty years.
Saltas has seen many direct competitors come and go. The Event was the first alternative weekly in Salt Lake, but they never had an editorial staff like City Weekly. They folded in the early 2000s. Eventually, the metro daily papers all across the U.S. saw the potential and began producing their own competition to the weekly independent papers. In This Week was Media One’s attempt to compete with City Weekly. It folded last December. According to Saltas, the metro alternative weeklies never gained traction because they were never truly independent. “Name me one story,” he asked me from his Main Street office, “from In, that you read that and remember?” I could not.
Saltas said that the dailies failed in this initiative because they missed the point of the alternative weeklies, which was to offer, in addition to just nightclub and restaurant ads and awards, a truly independent voice for alternative opinions and lifestyles. While City Weekly has an entire spread on adult services ads, it also devotes time and content to local investigative journalism with three full-time staff writers.
Saltas’ City Weekly recently published their largest issue to date with its Best of Utah awards. Saltas said that their best year was 2009. But when the economy tanked, they saw a dramatic drop in advertising revenue mostly from classifieds advertising, but across the board. But, he says, they are doing fine today. Saltas believes that if the Tribune goes under, someone else will step in to provide the much-needed coverage. “Could we provide that? There isn’t another publisher in town with more experience than we have.”