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New publisher appointed for Deseret News

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A man with extensive experience in the newspaper industry, Jim M. Wall, 53, executive vice president and general manager of the Denver Post, has been appointed publisher of the Deseret News.

He succeeds Wm. James Mortimer, who will retire Aug. 1 after a distinguished career at the Deseret News, Deseret Book, Deseret News Press, Printing Services, and long service in the community. The announcement was made July 12 by L. Glen Snarr, president and chairman of the Deseret News. John Hughes will continue as editor and chief operating officer.

Brother Wall, a graduate of BYU in communications with an emphasis in journalism, has a career that began on the pages of his hometown newspaper in Everett, Wash., and includes chapters as a problem-solver for publications in Arizona, Texas, Vermont, Massachusetts and Colorado.

Being a member of the Church has been an advantage in his career, he said. "People know about the Mormon Church, and when you keep the standards of the Church, they trust you in other things, too." The leadership principles he learned in Church callings are those "that work the best in business."

"The Church has always been important to us," he said in an interview July 12. "Any time we had a move or a job change, we have always prayed about it, and there have been jobs we haven't taken." He said his employers have come to understand that he and his wife, Connie, always pray about such decisions.

However, he said, the offer to be publisher of the Deseret News was different. "I've been a little in awe of the Deseret News, having graduated from BYU," he said. "I met Jim Mortimer at a BYU Development Board meeting, and I was honored to meet the publisher of the Deseret News."

The offer for him to become publisher was extended by the First Presidency. Normally, when a job offer was made, "I would say that we would pray about it [and answer the next day]. But what do you tell the First Presidency when the prophet says, 'We'd like you to take this position?' "

"I told them, of course, that I'd be honored."

He said that afterwards, when he spoke with his wife, the first thing she asked was if he had prayed about it. "My wife is my best friend and best asset," he said. "She's absolutely marvelous."

He and his family are pleased to come to Salt Lake City. Three of their five children are at still home: sons Scott, 21, and Mark, 19, and their youngest daughter, Brianne, a senior in high school. Their older son, Jeffrey, is a graduate of New Mexico State University, and works for a computer firm in Arizona. Their daughter, Kristin, resides in Denver with her husband, Justin Wright, and their two children, Isabella and Juliana. He is a BYU and Harvard Law School graduate.

Brother Wall's career on the business side, instead of on the journalism side, of the industry, began quite arbitrarily, he said.

After completing a mission in the North Central States and graduating from BYU, the energetic young man applied at his hometown newspaper, the Everett Herald, which had openings for both a reporter and an ad salesman. The executive vice president who would make the hiring decision was also coach of the company's competitive softball team.

"Since I had played on BYU's softball team, and we'd won a couple of summer league championships, and the softball team played at night, he decided that I should have the day job so that I could play at night. I ended up on the advertising side."

The Walls remained in Everett for several years, even though he was offered a job elsewhere. The offer was tempting, and someone even walked in off the street and asked to buy their home that wasn't up for sale.

But, after prayer, "we felt we should not go." Later, while still in Everett, they cared for his mother, who developed some special needs.

The Cox Arizona Publications later recruited him to the Mesa Tribune and its other newspapers in Chandler and Tempe, and the family moved to Mesa. There, while he worked on the business side of these publications, Sister Wall helped care for her mother, who was then a resident of Mesa.

He next accepted an executive position with the Dallas Times Herald, which was dueling with the Dallas Morning News. He stayed with this newspaper until it was purchased by the Dallas Morning News in 1991. At that time he was appointed by Dean Singleton, a former owner of the Times Herald, to be publisher of the Las Cruces, N.M., Sun-News.

"I liked marketing and I liked the business side of the newspaper, but Dean convinced me that being a publisher was a pretty good thing to do. He's been a great mentor and coach and teacher. I have learned a lot from the man who I think is one of the giants of our industry."

The family stayed in Las Cruces, where he helped the Sun-News move from an afternoon to a morning newspaper.

The frequent moves for the family were challenging but, "the Church has been our strength, more than anything else, and we have found friends there."

In 1995, he was offered a job on the East Coast to help the Berkshire Eagle in Massachusetts and two Vermont newspapers. The dailies, though reputable, were in severe financial trouble at the time.

The Wall family traveled to the area and "we liked the looks of the area, and thought the children would like to be on the East Coast," he said. It helped that Sister Wall was from nearby Long Meadow, Mass., near Springfield, where they moved.

"When I was in Massachusetts, I was able to serve in various positions within our ward, as high priests group leader, ward mission leader, and as stake high councilor and stake Young Men president. The Church is starting to grow again in New England where the Church had its roots," he said.

In addition to helping the newspapers regain health, Brother Wall was the leader in solving a local problem.

"General Electric and the Environmental Protection Agency had an issue that was a noose around the neck of the community," he said. "We were able to negotiate an agreement with the two that assured the economic well-being of an entire county and community."

The family moved back to the West early in 1999 where he joined the Denver Post.

Despite the frequent moves and changes in his career up to this point, Brother Wall is optimistic about this appointment lasting longer than others.

"We hope to be here for a while," he said.