The first issue of the Deseret News published 138 years ago Wednesday - featured a story that was six months old. But the state's pioneers eagerly read the June 15, 1850, account of a long-since extinguished fire in San Francisco.
In the century-plus since, technology and the times have sped things up a bit. But the Deseret News is still trying mightily to keep Utahns well informed."It is wonderful to remember 138 continuous years as Utah's first newspaper, but even more important to me is that we must continue to strive to be the area's best newspaper," Deseret News Publisher Wm. J. Mortimer said in a statement Wednesday on the occasion of the paper's birthday.
"When the paper's first editor, Dr. Willard Richards, published the initial edition on June 15, 1850, he proclaimed the motto of the Deseret News to be `Truth and Liberty.'
"May I affirm that these founding words of our great newspaper are as important to us today as they were when Dr. Richards first set them forth."
News was not easy to come by in the early days, for readers as well as newspaper editors. A wagon train was the first source for news of the rest of the world tapped by Richards, who was also second counselor to President Brigham Young.
When members of the season's first California-bound wagon train produced only soggy or damaged copies of newspapers from the East, Richards was forced to wait more than a week for a mail delivery.
Newspapers did arrive by mail in time for Richards to meet the promise he had made in the Deseret News' prospectus, that the first issue would be published "as early in June as subscriptions will warrant - waiting the action of 300 subscribers."
Richards selected a variety of stories for the first issue, including the text of President Zachary Taylor's January 1850 message to the House of Representatives from the New York Tribune.
Young and Horace K. Whitney set the stories into type, Thomas Bullock served as proofreader, and then Young took over pressman duties, printing the newspaper at a rate of about two sheets a minute.
Just over 200 copies of the first issue were published, and the cost of the newspaper then was $2.50 for a six-month subscription to be paid "invariably in advance," or 15 cents for a single copy.
For 25 cents, travelers and emigrants could get a copy of the newspaper with the "insertion of their names, place of residence, time of arrival and leaving."
The newspaper was first published in the state's Mint Building, which later was the site of the Hotel Utah. Among the half-dozen moves since was an 1858 effort to avoid a feared Army occupation by relocating the presses in Fillmore.
Over the years, the Deseret News handled paper shortages by soliciting rags from its readers to recycle into newsprint. Economic slumps were weathered by accepting livestock and produce for payment - and sometimes handing out similar items to employees in lieu of cash.