Don Gale: Moab Times-Independent partnership honors Utah’s past and future

Today, I switch from being an observer to being a participant, something I have rarely done over the past fifty years.

The reason is to publicly thank The Salt Lake Tribune for helping rescue the Moab Times-Independent weekly newspaper. The original publisher of the Moab newspaper, “Bish” Taylor, was a legend among Utah weekly publishers. His son, Sam Taylor, followed in his footsteps.

Sam and I were journalism students at the University of Utah. We were veterans, older than our classmates. Sam flew his own airplane from Moab to attend classes. He did the same later when he was elected senator to serve in the Utah Legislature — that was back when legislators cared about Utah and its people. Sam and I sometimes disagreed, but we never had a cross word. He was a friend in the most meaningful sense of that word. As I recall, he met his wife, Adrien, at the university. She became co-publisher and was equally capable.

The weekly press was instrumental in the development of Utah, and my association with and appreciation of Utah’s weekly press goes back to childhood.

My father, Glen Gale, sold and serviced typesetting machines in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada. He regularly visited every weekly newspaper in the state. Sometimes, he took me along — occasionally with fishing poles. I wandered through print shops, smelled stacks of paper and molten lead, watched pressmen feed one sheet at a time through old flatbed presses and witnessed the struggles of small-town journalism.

Surviving week to week was always a challenge. One Utah weekly newspaper I kept for years had a blank page with headline type reading, “There should be an advertisement here.” A following blank half page read, “Here, too.”

At my father’s funeral, a publisher told me, “When your dad came to visit, he did not come to sell, but to help.” When dad retired, the Utah Press Association honored him by naming him an Honorary Publisher. He prized that honor. In fact, on the day he was to receive the honor, he cut his thumb badly on his table saw. He doused the painful wound with mercurochrome, taped it up and happily but painfully attended the awards dinner.

Years later, UPA awarded me the same honor, more in recognition of my father’s contributions than my own.

Many weekly publishers who came to Utah early on were not members of the “predominant church.” They and their families made immense contributions to the cultural growth of cities and towns throughout the state and to the state itself. Newspaper publishers were community leaders. They supported education, boosted local economies, increased diversity and reduced cultural isolation. Community newspapers provided important historical records of cities, towns and citizens that cannot be found anywhere else.

In most cases, publishers’ wives played key roles in the process. Women were employed in the “back shop” at the same rate of pay as men. When male publishers died, their widows and children often took over operation of the paper. Families kept community newspapers going for generations, like the Taylors in Moab, the Claybaughs in Brigham City, the Fuellenbaughs in Richfield, the Dunns in Tooele, the Wilsons in Fillmore, the Beckwiths in Delta, the Stahles in Bountiful and many more.

Leaders at The Salt Lake Tribune are helping to keep these important traditions alive by facilitating the transition of the Moab Times-Independent to nonprofit status. The Tribune deserves sincere thanks from citizens in every Utah community for helping to sustain the contributions of weekly journalism, contributions that have done so much to build and improve the state.

I am honored to offer my appreciation to The Tribune based on decades of experience with the state’s remarkable weekly publishers, editors, reporters and printers.

Don Gale.

Don Gale, a Utah journalist for more than 60 years, adds sincere appreciation to the hundreds of hardworking women and men who continue to serve community journalism in Utah.