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Winning essays extol Deseret News

Readers note the paper’s value in their daily lives

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First-place winner:

Jennifer "Sally" Meyer, Salt Lake City:

All I ever needed to know, I learned from the Deseret News. I learned that I cannot change the world, unless I know what is going on around me. I learned that there is always someone worse off than me. I learned about human nature, and that it's not always who you are, but what you do that counts. I know now that it's OK to be different, as long as you believe in yourself. I shouldn't depend on others to do what I can do for myself. I learned that life is short, and to be grateful for the moments I have with my family. What unites us all is freedom of speech and the right to say what we feel. I learned about popes, presidents, wars and famine, basketball, football, chili and roses. I got a job, learned to cook, and sold my car. I learned that life goes on, day after day, and if I want to be a part of it, I must read and be informed. Your best friend can be as close as your own front porch.

Second-place winners:

Krista Rogers Mortensen, Bountiful:

As Christmas approached the small town of St. Polten, Austria, where I was serving as a missionary, I silently yearned for my family and my Utah home. My companion and I would longingly look at the two brown parcels from America sitting in the corner, eagerly awaiting the gifts and surprises from our families. When Christmas morning arrived, we opened our packages to find brightly wrapped presents padded with crumpled newspaper. There were socks, cosmetics, peanut butter, and other small items, but as it turned out, the most welcome gifts were the bits and pieces of home unknowingly sent as packaging. The presents sat untouched and forgotten as we spent the morning smoothing out pages from the Deseret News and sitting by our small wood stove joyfully reading each article, grocery ad, obituary, and letter to the editor. Like nothing else could, the Deseret News brought us home for Christmas.

Karandeep Singh, Springville:

The proverbial bulb lit up only at second glance: I was looking at my own picture. No caffeinated beverage, BYU-approved or otherwise, was necessary that Thursday morning. Between the fourth and fifth fold of wrapping my turban, it all sank in. The staff at the Deseret News had transformed my petition for tolerance, written to counter the venomous pronouncements of Osama bin Laden, into a feature piece on the dangers of stereotyping. They had taken the voice of a Sikh, anxious not to be misidentified as a terrorist, and arranged it into a multifaith, multicultural chorus. Even more impressive was the editor's decision to integrate a matter of international concern with the lives of those who make their home in Utah. Here was journalism of the first rank, the kind that not only puts the worlds at the reader's fingertips, but enlarges their embrace to include the world. Well done, DN — Happy 150! (P.S. The front-page story alluded to in this essay was written by Dennis Romboy; it appeared on Thursday, Aug. 27, 1998.)

Third-place winners:

Joel S. Hinckley, Pittsburgh:

As a child, the Deseret News was simply the paper my mom used to cover the table when we dyed Easter eggs. Now I am starting a family of my own. Since I no longer live in Utah, I covered my table last Easter with the Wall Street Journal. Now that I'm away from Utah, the Deseret News is more than a way to "catch spills." The online version of the Deseret News connects me to Utah. Following any Jazz or BYU/Utah game, local elections and other events I log on impatiently to check the score and get the stories that make me feel closer to home. Even with national events, I log on for hometown coverage that I know and trust. Desertnews.com is my daily dose of Utah. This Easter, I think I'll print several pages of the newspaper from the Web to cover my table when we dye our eggs.

Denise Kelly, West Jordan:

In October 1974, my second child in 15 months was born. My husband was attending graduate school and working full time and I was afraid that my mind was turning to peanut butter from reading non-stop Dr. Seuss. Our budget didn't allow for luxuries but the Deseret News was not a luxury to me. It was my lifeline. Daily, I would read it front to back, headlines to obituaries to want ads. It stretched my mind and helped me stay current with the world outside "Sesame Street." Five more children came along and I just kept reading the Deseret News. As they grew, I shared the paper with them. I would read to them. They would read to me. We found current events for school, comic strips, recipes and sports scores for favorite teams. They're almost all grown up now and we all still love the Deseret News every day.

Reed Markham, West Jordan:

As a young boy I thought delivering the Deseret News would be a great way to make some much-needed money. One evening I was delivering the paper and was almost finished with my route when an angry dog jumped to attack me. At that moment I recognized the value of the Deseret News as a tool for self-defense. I hit the dog with a newspaper from my bag. The dog retreated. Now as an adult, I read the Deseret News not only for its thoroughness, interesting facts, and imaginative articles, but because it also continues to be a tool for self-defense. The Deseret News defends my family and me from ignorance, falsehoods, and the apathy we see in today's society.

Shelba Simper, Murray:

After World War II, my veteran husband worked two jobs and I cared for our young daughter in a dark basement apartment. We dreamed of saving enough money to buy a building lot, which would enable our getting a building loan without a down payment. My entry in a Desert News "Mystery House" contest included the required identification of homes and 25 or less words about Deseret News. I wrote this poem: "It's entertaining, family its theme! Culturally, photographically and spiritually supreme! It's inexpensive! Remarkably complete! An appealing world-wide coverage feat!" When two gentlemen from the Deseret News knocked at my door, I thought they were selling subscriptions. I finally realized that because I had no telephone, they came to photograph me receiving the grand prize of $1,000. Fifty-one years ago we built our first home because of that prize.

Fourth-place winners:

Stephanie Baker, West Jordan:

I sat at the table one March Sunday morn,

While reading in the Deseret News of orphans in Vladivostok, an idea was born.

Through pictures and words, a story of sadness was told,

About children in Russia who were hungry and cold.

Though I'm only 12, and we're worlds apart,

I wanted to help these indigent children who'd gained a place in my heart.

In an effort to add some joy to their lives,

And bring happiness to a place where poverty thrives,

My siblings and I went clipboard in hand,

And began selling chocolate throughout all the land.

We collected old newspapers that would've been trashed,

And took them to recycling to exchange for some cash.

We'll continue these tasks without any doubt,

That the money we've earned will surely help out.

This story I read changed my heart and my life,

And I hope all my service will lesson their strife.

Stanley Colby, Castle Dale:

What do you mean, what has it meant to me? I can't remember the Deseret News not having meaning to me. As a little tyke, I had a few close encounters with the Deseret News on my behind. I delivered the Deseret News after school when other boys were playing ball. No wonder you never wrote about my ball-playing skills. I have wrapped fish in it, started fires with it. I have never read any issue from cover to cover, and I never will. I have bought and sold cars and homes from the classified ads. I have read about sports, Scouting events, religious activities, local and world events and even announcements of loved ones' births and deaths. I explain the Deseret News as something that is a part of me? Even today I search the Deseret News online to find out about important things to me. You have it all, Deseret News.

Sandi Craven, Millcreek Health Center, Salt Lake City:

When I was 22 years old, the mother of two toddlers, I was hit by a drunk driver as I crossed Redwood Road. I was in a coma almost nine months and not expected to live. I lived, but my life changed drastically. I have lived in a health-care center for more than a dozen years, paralyzed on the left side of my body. My mother has done the largest share of raising my children. I have been writing about my life in the care center for many years, sharing the stories of institutional life and my struggles at the Writer's Group of the Utah Independent Living Center. In 1993, I decided to try my hand at the Deseret News' "Christmas I Remember Best" story writing contest. I wrote about the miracle on Christmas Eve of my long-lost, cherished dog, Fudge. My story won! I was published! There was a photo of me and a drawing of me as a child with Fudge. I won more money that I usually see in a month and I heard from friends I thought I had lost. That's what I associate with the Deseret News, feelings of success, pride, recognition and happiness.

Jodi Martin:

Just 19, I was lazily skimming the Deseret News for ads and good recipes. It was July, 24, 1978. Drawn to the marathon results, I pored through the entire sports section word for word. Through tears, I read personal accounts of several runners who had just completed the ninth annual Deseret News Marathon. Never before have I been so deeply moved by something I've read. I vowed to run the next Deseret News Marathon. I bribed my 12-year-old brother to join me and together we became official finishers of the 10th annual marathon. Dad became the official family race photographer, a big job, since soon the whole family would be participating. Deseret News has not only touched my life, it shaped my life and the lives of our family. We have enjoyed a life running together, in races, training runs, and just for fun. Thanks, Deseret News.

Doug Mumford, Bountiful:

The Deseret News definitely helped me pursue the American Dream, not by one specific article, but by teaching me how to work. As a paper boy during my junior high years, I remember my mother reminding me to keep folding the papers and get going, as I would often get sidetracked reading the headlines. I learned how to work delivering the papers, and developed an interest in world events. What really impressed me in the following years was the overall family emphasis the paper has; instead of the front page being filled with the most depressing news, it is often filled with stories of success, giving a positive outlook on the world, when many would have us think there is nothing but bad news today. From a 14-year-old paper boy to a learning college student, the Deseret News has, and will continue to influence my life giving me news to inform me of the positive breaking news stories.

Catherine Wheelwright Ockey, Camano Island, Wash.:

As a child growing up in Salt Lake City in the '50s and '60s, the Deseret News was my link to the world, the country, and most importantly, my community. At a tender age it gave me a global perspective, as my mother read parts of articles at the family dinner table. A wise fourth-grade teacher made the News front page required reading during the Nixon/Kennedy debates. When my own picture appeared as part of an article on the All-City Festival of Music in 1963, I began to understand what community was really about, and that I was part of it. In 1975 I left Utah, but News clippings continued to be enclosed with letters from home. Now, from 900 miles away and with the click of a finger, I read the Deseret News online, and I still feel part of the community that raised me.

Jeff Rees, Fruit Heights:

How does a parent teach responsibility, commitment, dependability, consistency, excellence, work ethic? Forty years ago, my father quipped, "Every successful businessman," as did he, "started out as a newspaper carrier." I swallowed the bait and launched a personal career of five years interfacing with customers through the delivery and collection experience. In no other way could I have had direct contact with so many people, learned so much about human nature and customer interface as a young man. My wife and I are raising eight children, four boys and four girls. About the time our eldest turned 12, the Deseret News route in our immediate neighborhood became available. Five plus 14 years, dad, four boys, and well over half a million "porched" newspapers later, we recently concluded this phase of teaching responsibility, commitment, dependability, consistency, excellence, work ethic. Thank you, Deseret News, for the training ground. Bring on the next generation.

Steven Staker, El Cajon, Calif.:

For nearly two months in 1853, the Deseret News stopped publication for lack of paper. My ancestors, emigrating from Ireland to Utah, tagged along with Moses Daily's wagon train that brought a new supply (of paper). The newspaper resumed printing, and my great-great-grandmother started a subscription in her new home. For most of its lifetime, the Deseret News has been a family tradition. When I left Utah several years ago, I discovered deseretnews.com via Internet. I set it to load each time I connect to the Web. From Caracas, to London, and back to San Diego, the Deseret News no longer needed paper to inform me anywhere. My home page brought me hometown news. Sometimes I think about the paper shortage that prevented printing the news. While gazing at my computer screen is not the same as sitting down with the newspaper, it connects me with Utah. It's a window facing toward home.