CHILDREN REFER to it as "black and white and read all over." Old-timers affectionately speak of it as "the hometown paper." The Chicago Tribune defines it as "an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day, to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead public opinion and to furnish that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to do."
This definition is guaranteed by the First Amendment. It took a long time for newspapers to reach the status of the above definition. They went through a period equivalent to birth, experienced growing pains and then - with great care - some reached maturity with all the problems it brings. There is one important thing to remember. "It is the reader's decision to buy or not to buy that renders the verdict for the life or death of a newspaper."Historians record that the earliest known daily newspaper was started in Rome in 59 B.C. It was hand-printed by educated slaves. One writer suggested that had there not been so many slaves, the printing press might have been invented sooner. The world's first printed newspaper was a Chinese circular printed in 700 A.D. from carved wooden blocks. it was the development in the 15th century of movable type by Johann Gutenburg and the improved quality of ink that made possible the newspaper as a means of mass communication.
The first newspaper founded in the American Colonies appeared in 1690. It was called Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick and edited by Benjamin Harris of Boston. The colonial government ordered it stopped after one issue, claiming it was printed without authority.
In 1704, John Campbell established The Boston News, the colonies' first regularly published newspaper. By 1765, some 30 newspapers were struggling for survival. These early American papers were smallscale imitations of the English papers. They cost six cents a copy, and this was too expensive for the cash-poor colonists. In 1833, Benjamin Day established The New York Sun. It was the first of many successful penny newspapers - four-page tabloids 8 1/2 by 11 inches in size, with three columns to a page. The penny papers featured crime stories, court news, gossip and human interest items to catch the readers' attention.
During the period from 1833 to 1860, newspapers in America greatly increased in numbers, and there was bitter competition between the penny papers and their rivals, the regular newspapers. One interesting fact: the penny newspapers increased their price after becoming successful. But many people felt the penny papers were immoral. Horace Greely was one such person. He and others like him started newspapers to combat the penny papers and left their marks on newspaper history.
The first Sunday newspaper appeared during the Civil War because readers couldn't wait until Monday to learn the latest war developments. "The Yellow Kid," the nation's first comic strip, appeared in 1895. The first comic strip with continuing characters was "The Katzenjammer Kids," also known as "The Captain and the Kids." This was followed by "Buster Brown," "Foxy Grandpa" and "Let George Do It." The first daily comic strip was "Mutt and Jeff."
I never knew "The Yellow Kid," but I grew up with the rest of them. My brother and I would race each other for the comics. "The Katzenjammer Kids" were our favorite.
As the settlers moved West, each new settlement sooner or later had a newspaper. Frontier editors had vigorous ideas as to how newspapers should be run. One editor said, "Printing is an art and cannot be managed by every ignoramus who takes it into his hand to start a newspaper."
In the infant city of the Great Salt Lake things were different. Its pioneer settlers were used to publishing their own newspapers. In a recent issue of the evening paper, the statement was made that in 1847, when the pioneers started west, a Mr. Phelps started east to get a printing press to bring west to the settlers. So on June 15, 1850, the first newspaper of the Rocky Mountains made its appearance.
It was named Deseret News. The name Deseret comes from the Book of Mormon and means "honeybee." On the masthead appeared the words Great Salt Lake City (this was the name originally given to the new city), Deseret News, June 15, 1850, Vol. 1, No. 1, Lat. 46-54-44; Long. 11-26-34.
The prospectus revealed the paper's motto to be "Truth and Liberty." Dr. Willard Richards, the editor, said "We hold ourselves responsible to the Highest Court of Truth for our intentions and to be Highest Court of Equity for our executions."
The first copy was eight pages, printed on 7 1/2- by 10-inch newsprint. Type for this issue and subsequent issues was set by Brigham Young and Horace K. Whitney. The small, wrought iron Ramage hand press yielded two copies a minute. The paper was actually printed June 14, 1850, but was dated June 15.
This weekly newspaper cost $2.50 for six months, payable in advance. It collected very little money but was paid for with everything from "setting hens to a brindle cow." The first issue contained President Zachary Taylor's message to the House of Representatives, a report on a million-dollar fire in San Francisco, messages from LDS church leaders, brief items from beyond the mountains, farming and stock-raising hints, and commercial and social notes. Two advertisements were of interest: one for a blacksmith and the other a surgeon-dentist who said he could cure scurvy.
The original publisher was the LDS Church and through its columns the leaders kept their members united. The church continued to guide the paper's policy, although for a short period of time (1892-99), it didn't actually own the paper.
It has been recorded that the first newsboy for the new paper was not a boy, but the adopted daughter of Dr. Willard Richards.
The new paper had its problems. In 1853, there was a paper shortage. An English convert to the church with knowledge of papermaking took charge of a paper mill on Temple Square. Old rags, discarded tents and even wallpaper were used in manufacturing paper. Rags were washed and ground to bits between two stones, boiled in a large vat, then flattened by hand or rollers. The result was a misty, gray newsprint with a distinctive odor.
For four months in the summer of 1858 the Deseret News was printed in Fillmore, because of the threat of the United States Army.
Two events important to future newspaper coverage took place in 1860 and 1861. First was the Pony Express, which brought news from the Missouri area in six days. Ox teams had previously taken four months to do this and stage coaches took 30 days. Second, the transcontinental telegraph was established in the territory the following year and brought news to the Mountain West in minutes.
On Nov. 21, 1867, the first issue of the Deseret Evening News appeared. The weekly and semiweekly newspapers continued to be printed, too. The weekly lasted until 1898 and the semiweekly until 1922. George Q. Cannon was editor of the evening paper. On April 6, 1868, the paper increased in size to 15 1/2 by 22 inches. At that time, advertisements filled five of the six columns on the front page. The Church News began as a weekly supplement in 1911 but since 1943 has had independent circulation as well.
One writer stated, "If the West has a biographer, it is the Deseret News."
For eight years the Deseret News was the community's only newspaper. Then, in 1858, a non-member named Kirk Anderson launched a small newspaper called The Valley Tan. Its designation had to do with the tanning of leather in the territory. It means, in the strictest sense, "home manufacturing." The paper folded early in 1860, killed by a non-Mormon editorial policy.
Another publication appeared about this time called The Vedette. It was first published at Camp Douglas and ably edited by Captain Hemstead. The first issue stated that it was "a sentinel stationed on the outpost of an army to watch an enemy and give notice of danger."
In January 1870 a weekly newspaper appeared called the Mormon Tribune. It was designed as the organ for The New Movement. Its publishers were William S. Godbe and E.T. Harrison. They sponsored the liberal cause in the territory. On the newspaper's masthead appeared the following words: "Mental Liberty, Social Development, Spiritual Progress." Most articles were directed against the LDS Church. The paper was primarily a journal of opinions.
On June 5, 1870, the Salt Lake Tribune and Mining Gazette put out its first issue. This paper undertook to supply a comprehensive picture of world news and informative feature articles. The prospectus announced by the editor stressed that in addition to world features it would cover the development of mining, industry and commercial interests of the territory.
On Jan. 3, 1902, The Telegram was born. Both it and The Herald played an important part in the territory's newspaper history.
These two sets of newspapers controlled journalism in Salt Lake City for the next 50 years. The Deseret News and the Herald supported Mormonism. The Salt Lake Tribune and The Telegram were considered to be anti-Mormon. This situation made it difficult for the newspapers who tried to be independent to exist. They either had to get off the fence or be squeezed out. Because of this existing rivalry, Salt Lake City received the reputation of being a "journalistic cemetery."
The four established newspapers provided the citizens of Salt Lake City and surrounding areas with interesting and provocative reading during the city's growing period. The newspapers grew larger in size and number of pages. Advertisements ceased to appear on the front pages and news of the nation and the world increased. History in the making was recorded for all to read.
As I reviewed these interesting old papers I found many things of interest. An 1868 paper told of a "sea monster at Bear Lake."
The following want-ad drew my attention in an 1870 paper. "Wanted - Several thousand people to buy groceries and provisions cheap." I'm sure that grocery men for years have longed for this to happen.
A 1902 advertisement announced a sale on baby carriages. My father worked at this store and as I was born in 1902, I wondered if my baby carriage was bought at that sale.
I read advertisements for the opera "Shenandoah" presented by a New York cast. Another advertised "The Birth of a Nation" priced at 25 cents to $1 for matinee and 50 cents to $2 evenings. We attended the matinee performance. Maybe this picture should be shown now to remind us of the struggles and hardships endured for us by the founding fathers.
One interesting item 50 years ago listed the new arrivals at Salt Lake City hotels, namely the "Salt Lake House" and the "Townsend House."
A newspaper's life span depends upon advertising, politics and the editor's dedication, plus the fickle nature of a cash-poor readership. The Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune have weathered the years since their beginnings, and both have enviable places in the newspaper history of our city and state. On Aug. 30, 1952, an event occurred that, because of their bitter rivalry, few people in the journalisic world and outside of it ever expected to happen. This was the formation of the Newspaper Agency Corp., which allowed both newspapers to share advertising and mechanical departments, while maintaining separate newsroom operations. This agency was formed at a critical time in the life of both newspapers.
Recently, the two newspapers renewed their NAC contract. With this new contract came another step forward in the newspaper history of the Deseret News. Since the first of January 1983, the Deseret News has printed a Sunday edition, thus giving Salt Lake City two Sunday papers.
These two newspapers have and will continue to prove that "A drop of ink can make a million think."