Twenty years ago this month, the late E. Earl Hawkes, then publisher of the Deseret News, called me into his office, and declared: "We are planning to transfer you to the Church News."
The announcement came as a total surprise to me. I had heard nothing that such a transfer was even in the wind. There had been no rumors to that effect coming from the office "pipeline." To say that I had mixed feelings that day is an understatement. I had been a professional newsman for 10 years and had thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of covering "hard news."During that first decade of my newspapering career, I had covered all types of stories some important, some not-so-important; some exciting, some dull; some sad, some humorous; some tragic, some light-hearted. Those stories had run the gamut from the November 1965 airline crash at the Salt Lake International Airport that killed 43 people, the worst in Utah history, to the rescue of a dog from a culvert in Midvale with just about everything else in between. I didn't really want to leave that "front row seat" in the human drama that was being played on the stage of life.
But during those 10 years, not many of those stories I covered were very uplifting.
Uplifting? If I remember correctly from my first journalism class at Brigham Young University, the primary purpose of a daily newspaper is to inform not uplift. An informed people is absolutely essential in a free society, and newspapers play the most important role in helping people to be informed about what is happening in the world about them.
So what is this about uplifting? Webster defines uplifting as "1. the act or process of lifting up; elevation 2. (a) the act or process of raising to a higher moral, social, or cultural level (b) any influence, movement, etc. intended to improve society morally, culturally, etc."
Is that really the function of a newspaper? And even if it were, with the type of news that newspapers must cover to keep their readership informed, it would be almost impossible.
But with the Church News, to uplift is another dimension of what we're trying to do. We feel we definitely have an obligation to inform and that is why Church News reporters and editors have been sent to nearly every state in the United States and to virtually all countries where the LDS Church is significantly organized to report on its activities.
However, we feel we must also uplift, motivate and strengthen the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
How successful are we in "our mission"?
A letter from France stated: "All the articles are interesting. They give us a full and glorious vision of the Church, the kind of vision you cannot always have in our little branches in France. The Church News gives me strength."
Or this letter from Georgia: "I sincerely believe that the missionary stories on the back page helped me to stay in the Church. Each week I had something to relate to about my conversion, trying times I had with my life. Those stories gave me a spiritual boost."
And still another letter from Ohio: "By reading the Church News regularly, I've learned so much. The facts given, the stories shared and spiritual experiences of those past and present have truly been inspirational to me. The Church News is my source for keeping up-to-date with new policies and changes and helps to uplift me each time I read it. Thank you for helping me with my spiritual growth!"
Looking back on 20 years of reporting and editing for the Church News, it's those kinds of letters that make it all worthwhile. From the articles published in the Church News, Latter-day Saints have been uplifted and strengthened, while they have been kept informed of the vitality and vibrancy of the Church.
For me, the past 20 years which has included covering 40 general conferences, traveling to more than 55 countries, and participating in some very special and spiritual experiences, such as temple dedications from Australia to Sweden have been very fulfilling.
And out of these experiences, one thought repeatedly comes to mind that many newspapers in the country are realizing: There is, indeed, an important place in newspapers for coverage of religious news news that not only informs, but also uplifts, motivates and strengthens.