When the first Deseret News was published in 1850, news-hungry Utahns exchanged wheat, corn meal, bacon and other dry goods for a small weekly newsletter that was published by a hand-crank press and included several outdated articles, two brief obituaries, two advertisements, a poem and letters to the editor.
Nearly a century and a half later, the Deseret News celebrated its 140th birthday along with 170 other people representing the media, local businesses, religious and educational institutions and political parties during a luncheon at the Salt Lake Marriott Hotel Friday afternoon.Sharing the early history of the newspaper, President Thomas S. Monson, chairman of the board and second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, "We turn to the past because we came out of it. We speak of the present because we live in it. We plan for the future because a new generation will inherit it."
History shows the difficulties that once faced the Deseret News, such as a slow postal service jeopardized by the weather or unexpected Indian raids, or a hand-cranked press that spouted two issues an hour and a circulation system requiring subscribers to call for their papers at the news office.
Although technology and reorganization solved these problems, the purpose of the Deseret News remains the same. Reading from the first edition of the Deseret News, President Monson recounted the newspaper's statement of purpose, according to founder Willard Richards:
-To document news events as well as important happenings in the arts, science and politics.
-To serve the best interest to citizens.
-To speak freely without regard to other men or party.
As the Deseret News continues to try fulfilling that policy today, the paper has earned many awards, including the coveted Pulitzer Prize.
"That Pulitzer is but one of many prestigious awards garnered by the staff over the years," President Monson said. "There are, in fact, too many to name. I pay tribute to those who have given leadership to the Deseret News, one and all."
Among those he pays tribute to is publisher Wm. James Mortimer, who also spoke at the celebration.
Mortimer assured the audience that the Deseret News has "not grown old with age. We are striving to be perpetually young."
The future of the Deseret News, Mortimer said, is to continue to serve society as a watchdog in promoting good government, provide credible and useful information, give a balanced report, support wholesome values, promote community interest and be fair not only in news information, but as an employer.
The 1 1/2-hour function ended with a video presentation of the Deseret News.