Utah History Encyclopedia


By Sherilyn Cox Bennion

Salt Lake Daily Tribune building, c. 1871

The Salt Lake Tribune began as the result of a movement to oppose the political and economic policies of the Mormon Church. William S. Godbe, Elias L.T. Harrison, Edward W. Tullidge, and William H. Shearman joined forces to publish the Mormon Tribune on 1 January 1870 after the Deseret News urged church members to boycott their Utah Magazine, founded two years earlier.

The editors replaced their magazine with the new weekly newspaper, which, they stated in their first number, would "oppose the undue exercise of priestly authority." In June Mormon was dropped from the title, and in 1871 the paper became the Salt Lake Daily Tribune and Utah Mining Gazette, with a weekly or semi-weekly issue that continued for a time, as well. The name soon changed to the Salt Lake Tribune.

In July 1873 three Kansans bought the struggling paper. They escalated the conflict with the Mormon establishment, perhaps reasoning that the way to prosperity lay in a stronger appeal to non-Mormon residents. Mormon publications referred to the Kansans as "the border ruffians," while the Tribune called the Deseret News "Granny," and News editor Charles W. Penrose "Granny's Imp." Attacks on polygamy became a Tribune staple.

Beginning in May 1880, Penrose's counterpart at the Tribune was C. C. Goodwin, who came to Salt Lake from Nevada. Although the confrontations continued, the two editors respected each other, and both made their papers into attractive, readable publications. Goodwin bought into the ownership of the Tribune in 1883 and stayed with the paper until 1901, when an unidentified buyer took over.

That buyer turned out to be Thomas Kearns, in partnership with David Keith. The mining ventures of the partners had prospered, and Kearns had been elected to the U.S. Senate in 1900. Journalistic success came slowly; Kearns is reported to have said, "It takes a great mine to run a newspaper."

The new owners soon added an evening paper called the Salt Lake Telegram. They sold it in 1920, retook control in 1930, and maintaining it through most of the remainder of the Telegram's life. In 1919, after the death of Kearns, his family bought out the Keiths, and majority ownership of the Tribune has remained with the Kearns family.

J.F. Fitzpatrick, "Mr. Tribune," began his involvement with the paper as Thomas Kearns's secretary, and became publisher in 1924. An era of accommodation with journalistic foes already had begun, and along with it came solid growth in circulation and advertising. Long-time business staff leaders Homer E. Robinson and A.L. Fish, and editors G.B. (Bert) Heal and Arthur C. Deck, maintained continuity as the Tribune solidified its position as Utah's circulation leader.

The Tribune and the Deseret News entered a joint operating agreement in 1952, merging their advertising, production, circulation, and business departments. Tribune circulation in 1993 stood at 121,165 for the daily edition, and 156,013 on Sunday. The Kearns-Tribune Corporation maintains holdings in other publishing companies, in cable television, and in non-media enterprises, as well.