Ten years ago, John Hughes became editor and chief operating officer of the Deseret News.
At the end of this month, he will step down as editor and COO of the Deseret Morning News.
The "Morning" in the newspaper's name is, perhaps, the hallmark of Hughes' many accomplishments during his decade of leading the paper.
At a staff meeting Friday, Ellis R. Ivory, chairman of the paper's board of directors, announced that Joseph A. Cannon would be the new editor.
Hughes came to the paper in January of 1997, after storied career as, among other things, a Pulitzer-Prize winning foreign correspondent in Africa and Asia, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, associate director of the U.S. Information Agency, director of the Voice of America, assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs during the Reagan administration and assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.
His charge, when taking over as Deseret News editor, was to improve what he called an already fine paper and take it to morning publication.
The Deseret News officially became the Deseret Morning News on June 9, 2003.
L. Glen Snarr was chairman of the Deseret News Board of Directors that hired Hughes in 1997 as a consultant to the paper. Hughes, who was at the time a journalism professor at Brigham Young University, made his recommendations and was subsequently offered the editorship.
"John was a key figure in our successful move to morning publication," Snarr said. "He's a fine editor and I'm glad we got him. He works well with people and has been an excellent public face for the newspaper," Snarr said.
Ivory also served on the paper's board of directors when Hughes was hired.
"John Hughes is a legend in the newspaper industry. We've been very fortunate to have him serve as editor for the past 10 years. He has brought luster and style to the Deseret Morning News. It was his strong recommendation that we switch to morning publication. Then he helped steer us through that successful change. We are a better newspaper today because John Hughes gave us this decade of outstanding service," Ivory said.
Publisher Jim Wall joined the paper in July of 2000,
"I will miss John as will the editors, reporters and other members of our staff. One of John's heroes is Sir Winston Churchill, who he has quoted to me on several occasions. His hero was the right man, in the right place, at the right time. I would paraphrase the same for John. He has been the man who has had the right journalism skills, the right style of leadership and the right credentials as the Deseret Morning News has been one of the few newspapers in the country to show consistent circulation growth," Wall said.
Managing Editor Rick Hall was the paper's city editor when Hughes came on board in 1997.
"I thought we were working pretty hard and putting out a pretty good newspaper before John arrived. And we were. But John turned up the heat. He raised the bar. For John, excellence is the only acceptable standard. He knew this great staff could get better and, under his editorship, we did," Hall said.
"On a personal level, the 10 years under John's tutelage has been the high point of my career."
As editor, Hughes championed the paper's special projects coverage, which included major series on drunken driving, child pornography, immigration and children in foster care.
Under Hughes' direction, the paper earned a host of regional and national journalism awards. Hughes himself was awarded the National Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in August of this year. The award went to Hughes and Salt Lake Tribune Editor Nancy Conway for leading the Utah Media Coalition in strengthening and defending First Amendment rights in Utah.
"John is a champion of the First Amendment, man great integrity, a fine human being and a very fine editor. I think the news media community in the state will be diminished by his absence. It is, however, nice to think about him teaching new journalists at BYU," Conway said.
In an era of declining newspaper circulation, the Deseret Morning News' circulation, under Hughes' leadership, had steadily increased.
While clearly understanding the long-held tenet that "all news is local," Hughes remains a fierce advocate for foreign reporting. He has, for 20 years, written a weekly op-ed column in which he uses sources developed around the world and over many decades to give focus and context to those foreign dispatches.Comment on this story
Hughes' work also draws praise from competitors.
"John in my view is one of the elite outstanding editors of our time. He understands news as well as anybody on the planet. He is a solid newsman with the highest ethical standards. It has just been a pleasure for me to watch him across the street do an excellent job with the Deseret Morning News. He's just first class. I have enormous respect and admiration for the whole 30 years I've known him," said Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Hughes serves on the board of the International Center for Foreign Journalists, a group that promotes press freedom throughout the world, and is an active member and former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He has served numerous times as a juror for the Pulitzer Prize, journalism's most prestigious award.
Beginning in early January, Hughes will return to teaching international communication and newspaper management at BYU.