DESERET NEWS PUBLISHER Wm. James Mortimer has built his career working for companies that carry the name of Deseret.
"The only one left is Deseret Industries," jokes Mortimer, who is known in the newsroom for his wearing of black-and-white newsprint suspenders.Mortimer, who graduated with a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1957, served as assistant business editor for the Deseret News until 1959.
Later, he worked as director of printing services for the LDS Church, general manager of the Deseret News Press and general manager of the Deseret Book Co.
Mortimer was named editor and publisher of Utah's afternoon newspaper June 10, 1985, and has become known as a "hands-on" manager who personally sings birthday greetings to employees. If a book were to be written about his leadership style, it might be titled: "Management by Handshake." He's a gregarious speaker at civic and professional gatherings, and he has led the newspaper's redesign and its latest marketing and circulation push.
When Mortimer earned the title of publisher, he joined an illustrious gallery of leaders who have worked to uphold the vision of a newspaper founded under the motto, "Truth and Liberty." Included in the gallery of early leaders were a Teddy Roosevelt Rough Rider and a Utah explorer.
Wendell J. Ashton began a longtime writing career by covering sports and cops for the now-defunct Salt Lake Telegram. On an LDS mission to England, he continued to play with words as editor of the Millennial Star, the LDS Church's oldest publication. For nearly 30 years, he wrote monthly editorials for the church's The Instructor magazine, and in the course of this career he wrote seven books.
In 1947, Ashton was named Deseret News managing editor. He later wrote a history of the newspaper, "Voice in the West," was an advertising executive and then director of public communications for the LDS Church. He became publisher of the Deseret News in 1978.
William B. Smart, now editor of This People Magazine, guided the newspaper for more than a decade. He worked as a sports writer, reporter, editorial page editor and executive editor before being named general manager of the Deseret News in 1972.
Smart, who founded a prize-winning investigative team at the Deseret News, earned the Clifford P. Cheney Service to Journalism Award in 1987, an honor bestowed by the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Smart took over from E. Earl Hawkes, who moved from managing a Hearst newspaper, the Record American-Sunday Advertiser, in Boston, with a daily circulation of more than 440,000. Hawkes was known for his fascination for world, national and local happenings and for his ability to work hard. "I may not know as much about Utah as you do," he was overheard saying in the newsroom shortly after arriving from Boston. "But one thing I will promise you - I can outwork you." A civic leader and innovator, Hawkes was responsible for the start of the annual Christmas lighting project on Temple Square.
O. Preston Robinson, a teacher and a scholar, was editor of the Deseret News from 1952 to 1964. Under his direction, the Deseret News won a Freedoms Foundation Award, and, in 1962, the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for local reporting under deadline.
In 1924, a young man looking for a job pestered the city editor of the Deseret News almost daily for six months. Mark E. Petersen was finally hired on as a cub reporter, at a salary of $90 per month.
Capitalizing on that determination throughout his career, Petersen gathered the titles of news editor, managing editor and in 1941, editor, along the way earning recognition as one of the top newsmen in the West. In 1952, Petersen was named vice president of the Newspaper Agency Corp., which was formed to combine the advertising, circulation and printing functions of the city's two newspapers.
Petersen was later called as a member of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Writing awards granted annually to Deseret News employees are named in Petersen's honor.
David A. Robinson was editor during most of World War II - serving from 1943-46. He had assumed the post from James A. Langton. Langton, who served from 1934-43, and Joseph J. Cannon, 1931-34, guided the Deseret News through the dark days of the Great Depression.
Two influential early editors of the Deseret News were George Q. Cannon, who served from 1867 to 1873 and from 1877 to 1879, and Charles W. Penrose, whose tenure as editor extended from 1880 to 1892.
Cannon took over the job in 1867, the same year the Deseret News became a daily. During his career, Cannon served missions for the LDS Church in Hawaii and California, edited church publications in Europe, was member of the church's Council of the Twelve, a secretary to Brigham Young and a counselor to three church presidents.
Between the two terms of editorship of George Q. Cannon, David O. Calder was editor, 1873-1877.
Penrose was appointed to the job in 1880, when the Utah Territory was divided into two camps, the Mormons and the anti-Mormon faction, "The Ring," led by the youthful territorial governor, Eli H. Murray. Among Penrose's editorial targets were the Liberal Party, which was campaigning to take the vote away from Utah women, and The Salt Lake Tribune, which was crusading against allowing any more Mormon immigrants into Utah.
When Penrose was called to other duties, John Nicholson, George C. Lambert and John Q. Cannon, son of George Q. Cannon, filled the editor's chair at various times and helped the movement toward the goal of Utah gaining statehood. John Q. Cannon was a highly educated man who spoke several languages. Cannon left the paper to join Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.
Elias Smith was editor of the Deseret News from 1859 to 1863, between two stints of editorship by Albert Carrington, who was editor from 1854 to 1859 and from 1863 to 1867.
Carrington was notable for his efforts in helping Capt. Howard Stansbury in exploring the Great Salt Lake.Comment on this story
Big stories reported under Carrington's tenure included the stunning report that an invasion army commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston was on its way to "occupy" Utah.
The newspaper plant was moved to Fillmore, and then Parowan, for protection, until Johnston's Army was determined to be no threat to the Mormon colony.
In 1850, when Brigham Young decided to start a newspaper in order to keep the Mormon colonists in touch with the outside world they had abandoned, he asked Dr. Willard Richards to spearhead the effort.
Richards was a former New England physician, who wrote editorials urging settlers to improve agricultural and manufacturing efforts and to use their own ingenuity to overcome their geographic isolation.