Don Gale: Learning from The Tribune over many years

(Courtesy image) The front page of the March 25, 1947 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune describes Utah's dramatic victory over Kentucky in the NIT Tournament in Madison Square Garden. It was Utah's only NIT title, then seen as the equivalent of the NCAA tournament title.

I will miss the daily Salt Lake Tribune. It has been in my home and life every day for more than 80 years, minus a couple of years in the military.

The Tribune helped me learn to read with daily comic strips — “Blondie,” “Orphan Annie,” “Dick Tracy” and many more. Later, Snoopy introduced me to philosophy: “One dream is worth a basket full of memories,” he opined. And Schroeder, seated at his tiny piano, made classical music both classy and desirable.

During “The War,” I followed battle lines on Tribune maps. I learned to cheer about successes and grieve over losses. I clipped Reg Manning editorial cartoons and kept them in paper sacks. (The Tribune urged us to save paper — and everything else.) Manning’s cartoons were racist, but they helped moderate wartime fears.

In junior high, I delivered papers, up every morning at 5 with my dog Betsy walking up and down hills, canvas bags filled with 200 Tribunes. No orange plastic bags or rubber bands during postwar years, just the walking square-fold and an accurate throwing arm (mostly). Every month, I rang 200 doorbells, hoping to collect $1.50 or whatever a subscription cost in those days.

In high school, I “stuffed” papers, working until midnight three nights a week in a large room adjacent to the roaring presses on Regent Street. On Thursday, we stuffed comics into society sections, on Fridays, those two sections into the classifieds, and on Saturdays, previous work into A, B and sports sections as they came off the presses. We wore stockings on our arms to protect us from paper cuts and “fingers” made of old inner tubes to speed up the process.

Tribune advertising introduced me to new products and helped me decide which brands to buy. (Ads touted product differences, not price; we cared more about quality than quantity.)

Years later, in journalism school at the University of Utah, I was older than my classmates because I had finished four years of pre-med and two years of military. Professors used The Tribune to illustrate the ethics of good journalism and teach us how to write.

During that time, Tribune Publisher Jack Gallivan championed a business arrangement called the Newspaper Agency Corp. He took his fight all the way to Congress. I wrote a class paper disagreeing with Gallivan. But he was right, and I was wrong. His business foresight saved both The Tribune and the Deseret News. (It might have saved them again if a few greedy souls hadn’t corrupted the concept.)

I had classes from Herb Kretchman and Ernie Linford, editorial writers for The Tribune. They helped teach me how to think and how to organize my thoughts so they made sense to others. Another part-time professor was Bob Cutler from the Newspaper Agency Corp. He taught me editing and design, and he was responsible for putting me in touch with my first employer in the journalism field.

After graduation, I interviewed for a job at The Tribune. Editor Art Deck looked over his half glasses and offered me a job for about $65 a week — at least 25% less than my wages as a typesetter. I had a family of five to support. Seeing my words in The Tribune would have to wait another half-century or so.

Like everyone else in Utah, I read Dan Valentine’s columns to learn about humor and the quirks of Utah’s culture. He once wrote about how you could tell which types of alcohol would be served (illegally) to diners by watching how they positioned their upside down cups — center of the saucer meant vodka, left side meant scotch, right side meant bourbon, and so on.

And John Mooney was the archetype of sports writers. You had to know him to fully appreciate the story of Mr. Mac selling Mooney a white sports coat.

Reporters at The Tribune were students of mine during the decade I taught journalism at the University of Utah. They included Paul Rolly and JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells, two superb columnist partners at The Tribune. Paul always joked that I was the only journalism professor who gave him a C. And I replied that it was a gift. We both laughed. JoAnn introduced me to her remarkable father who had been in the Bataan Death March.

I could continue with similar experiences, but I also learned from The Tribune that reader attention spans are limited. And I know for sure that not one of those life-changing experiences can ever — in any way — be repeated on a digital screen.

Will I miss The Tribune? You bet. But I’m fortunate that it was such a meaningful part of my life for more than three-quarters of a century.

Don Gale.

Over the years, longtime Utah journalist Don Gale has written 2 or 3 million words. Some of them ended up in his favorite newspaper.