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Deseret News

by Wendell J. Ashton

The Deseret News began as a weekly newspaper in Salt Lake City on June 15, 1850, just three years after the Mormon pioneers founded the city. Established by the Church under the direction of Brigham Young, the News has had uninterrupted publication to the present. It became a daily on November 21, 1867. From the beginning, the Deseret News has championed the U.S. Constitution and "truth and liberty." Editorially it has promoted free enterprise, the work ethic, and high moral values.

The early pioneers launched a newspaper against great odds. Because paper had to be brought in from California or Missouri by oxcart, they tried to make their own locally from rags in 1854. The result was a thick, gray paper that was often streaked with colors from the old shirts, pants, and dresses from which it was made.

The first editor of the Deseret News was Willard Richards (1850-1854), who was also a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. George Q. Cannon was the editor from 1867 to 1873 and from 1877 to 1879. As a youth, he had worked in the Times and Seasons printing office in Nauvoo, Illinois, and had edited the Millennial Star in Great Britain. He was mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Uncommercial Traveler in connection with his work in Church emigration.

As editor from 1880 to 1892 and again from 1899 to 1907, Charles W. Penrose was a tireless editorial defender of the Church. He fought over many topics, particularly polygamy, and was fond of referring to an opposing editor as "my friend, the enemy." Horace G. (Bud) Whitney, as business manager of the Deseret News from 1899 to 1920, increased circulation nearly 500 percent, doubled the number of pages, and left the News a substantial financial surplus.

Mark E. Petersen became editor of the Deseret News in 1946 after working as a reporter, news editor, and manager. Called to be an apostle in the Church in 1944, he handled both full-time jobs for several years. He wrote editorials for the Church News, a weekly supplement, until his death in January 1984.

In 1952 Elder Petersen brought the Deseret News into a newspaper agency arrangement with its competitor paper, the Salt Lake Tribune. Under the Federal Newspaper Preservation Act, the two newspapers combined their printing, circulation, and advertising departments but remained independent in editorial and news areas. The Tribune was the morning newspaper, and the News the evening one. Since the partial merger, both papers have shown an annual profit, and circulation at the News was increasing as it entered the 1990s.

(See Church Participation in Business; Daily Living home page; Attitudes Towards Business and Wealth home page)


Alter, J. Cecil. Early Utah Journalism. Salt Lake City, 1938.

Ashton, Wendell J. Voice in the West: Biography of a Pioneer Newspaper. New York, 1950.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Deseret News

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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