SALT LAKE CITY — Max Knudson, former longtime business editor for the Deseret News, died peacefully in his home Wednesday after a fight with cancer.
He was 80 years old.
During his life, Knudson occupied myriad roles, including a coffee shop manager, a folk singer and even a military man after being drafted into the Army in the 1960s — but he spent the majority of his career as a newspaperman.
His first taste of reporting came while he was in the Army, serving as an information specialist — the role being “the Army’s term for a reporter or an editor or a PR guy,” he said in an interview in 2001.
His career in journalism was somewhat serendipitous, then, as the position was supposed to go to a college graduate with the last name Knudsen, not to a man who had only attended one quarter of college.
Before being drafted, he had been busy with his other pursuits. He married for the first time in 1964, but the relationship ended in divorce.
He gave college another shot in 1967, returning home to Salt Lake City and attending the University of Utah after his time in the Army and a rather dismal job as a manager at 7-Eleven.
“By now I know that the world’s a cold, cruel place, and this is my last chance to make something of my life other than the fast-food industry, so man, do I study,” he said in 2001. “I started out in the hole because I had all those E’s and incompletes from that first quarter in 1958, but I eventually overcame it. I majored in English, because that seemed like the logical thing for somebody who enjoyed reading and was good at writing.”
He later switched to a journalism degree and graduated in 1969. While he was in college, he met his eventual second wife, Karen Christensen, and they married in 1970.
Knudson was a loving father and had three children — a son, Erik Byron Knudson, and two daughters, Kelly Peters Christensen Knudson and Lindsay Elizabeth Knudson Williams.
Knudson found his first newspaper job the same year he graduated, becoming an intern with the Salt Lake Tribune in 1969. He later left Salt Lake City to work for The National Enquirer, which offered to pay him triple what he was making.
He was fired after just four months.
“It was probably the hardest job I’ve ever had,” he said. “The hours were absolutely relentless. You worked seven days a week, 13 or 14 hours a day.”
“It had sounded so easy before I went down there. I thought that if you were willing to just pervert your journalistic instincts and sell yourself for money, all you had to do was make the stuff up. But it didn’t work that way. It actually was journalism of a kind, but it wasn’t what I had been trained in. I was the only American there. Everyone else was from Britain or Australia and knew all about tabloid journalism.”
After another stint at the Salt Lake Tribune and a couple public relations jobs, he found his longtime home with the Deseret News in 1979.
Knudson had originally applied for an investigative reporting position but was told it was being filled in-house. He was instead offered the business editor position, which he accepted.
“It was quite a relief to me to get this job,” he said. “It’s where I belonged. It’s what I do best.”
Knudson worked as the Deseret News’ business editor for 22 years. Among his many articles, the automotive stories he wrote were among his most popular.
“If I have any fame at all, it’s for the car reviews,” he said. “All the other thousands of stories I’ve written on finances and banking and retail and development, that isn’t what people ask me about. They always ask me, ‘Hey, Max, what are you driving today?’”
He put down the pen and retired in 2002.
“Max leaves a legacy of well-crafted newspaper stories, always clearly written, without typos and made every deadline,” his obituary states. “Please continue to support our precious newspapers as they are a lifeline to understanding our ever-changing world.”