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The Deseret News was a radio pioneer

Published: Sunday, Jan. 30 2011 11:11 p.m. MST

Governor Gary Herbert talks with radio host Tony Yapias about immigration and other issues facing Utah during the program, "Pulso Latino at the studios of Excitos 1550 am in Salt Lake City At left are translators Adriana Mortenson (from English to Spanish) and Efraín Méndez (from Spanish to English).

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives

The headline proclaimed the news: "Deseret News Radio Station Now in Operation: Greetings Sent Through Space to Eager Fans."

The May 6, 1922 article in the Deseret News by Jack Cannon described it this way: "A flash of electrical fireworks, followed by a dull hum of generating energy and 'mysterious messages' took flight for 1,000 miles in every direction from the top of the Deseret News building, promptly at 3 o'clock this afternoon. High above the drone of Salt Lake street traffic, the News radio operator, H. Carter Wilson, set his wonderful scientific radio apparatus in operation."

The Deseret News Radio Station had the call sign KZN, which was later changed to KSL.

Almost 89 years later, KSL and the Deseret News are back together again in the same building.

The station up on the roof of the Deseret News wasn't the first radio transmitter in Utah, but it was the first voice-transmitting commercial radio station. The first broadcast began with "Flash" Wilson speaking: "Hello; Hello; Hello; This is KZN; KZN, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, calling: KZN calling. Greetings! The Deseret News sends its greeting to all of you, far and wide!"

The Deseret News began its first nightly radio broadcasts two years earlier on Nov. 2, 1920 – broadcasting the nightly news in Morse code.

The paper began installation of the "radio phone," as it was then called, in Feb. 1922 and it took them until May to get it ready for the May 6 dedication day.

The first day's schedule was a snapshot of radio — and isn't that different from radio today. After the opening announcement, there was news, weather reports, music and baseball scores (from the National league, American league and Pacific Coast league). The official dedication took place at 8 p.m. LDS Church President Heber J. Grant began the dedication ceremony, standing outside of the radio shack, holding a microphone in one hand and a small book of scripture in the other: "This is my message to the people of the world -- a quotation from the Doctrine and Covenants known as Section 76." He then read an account of a vision of Christ from Joseph Smith, founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After he finished reading, President Grant said, "I bear witness to all mankind that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and living God."

After President Grant, Salt Lake City's mayor, C. Clarence Neslen spoke, "Times are improving, things are getting better, and there is nothing but hope and cheer before us, and we should all feel encouraged and decide to go forth with renewed energy, undertaking those things that lie before us."

The future of radio was bright in Salt Lake City that night and has been bright ever since.

Photo historian Ron Fox combed through the Deseret News archives to pull out some photographs of Utah's radio history and some of the radio personalities — both local and national — that Utahns had grown to love over the years.

And to think it all started on the roof of the Deseret News.

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: twitter.com/degroote

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