'32 newspaper merger changes Carbon County
The history of Carbon County, and the recording of it, changed greatly on Dec. 8, 1932.
Until that time, the path of newspapers in the area was scattered and at time contencious. The original newspaper in the county (before it was a county) was the Eastern Utah Telegraph that was started in 1891.
It evolved, through a series of sales and ownership changes into the Eastern Utah Advocate and then into the News-Advocate.
During the ensuing 40 years other papers also popped up, many of which are only ascertained by existence by being mentioned in other papers in the state or in peoples personal diaries or letters.
Two of those kind included the Castle Valley News (no known issues remain of this paper that was published between 1895-98) and The Pioneer, which has no official history at all, not even the years of publication are known.
In the late 1890's the Carbon County News was started and became a major newspaper in the area and through a series of legal problems, sales and in some ways a lot of deception that paper got the name of the Eastern Utah Advocate away from the original paper and became the News-Advocate in 1915.
Within a month after that happened The Sun appeared on the scene, a publication put out by Robert Crockett who had lost the name of the Advocate to the News in a legal scramble. It was basically the same paper as the Advocate had been.
So until the end of 1932, the two papers battled it out for advertising and subscribers, although in the waning years of both papers the war got less hot as Robert Crockett and the final owners of the News-Advocate (H.W. and Grace Cooper who bought the paper in the early 1920's and improved it immensely) became as close as people competing in business can be.
The saga of the development of the Sun Advocate, as it became known when Joseph Ashbury purchased them both in 1932 and combined them, was long, at times tortuous and filled with not only battles in the papers, but battles on the street.
Ashbury was a businessman who had a lot of irons in the fire. At the time he bought the papers in Carbon County he also owned the Richfield Reaper, and other business holdings in Sevier County. Foremost he was a newspaper man, however, having owned and worked with and for other papers around the west.
When that first edition of the paper came out Ashbury had a lot to do and undo. The previous two papers had had their own political leanings, one being a paper of and for the Grand Old Party and the other a spokespaper for the Democrats.
Ashbury did away with that and made sure the paper was to be non-partisan, yet still relevant in taking on the issues of the day, the largest of which was mining issues, unions and of course the relevancy of the the Great Depression which the country was just delving into.
He moved the offices of both papers to The Sun's office and sold off all the equipment of the News-Advocate. He combined staff and if people didn't get along because of their previous experience being competitors he either made it better or he got rid of them. He named P,K, Nielsen, the former editor of the News-Advocate to supervise the mechanical department, while he acted as editor.
It was a good move in a town of 6,000 in hard economic times. Even in good times it was hard for advertising and subscriptions to support one paper, much less two. He planned to make the paper a twice a week paper, but that never happened during his ownership; in fact it didn't take place at all until the mid-1970's when the Sun Advocate absorbed another area paper, The Helper Journal, and the paper went to the format of Tuesday-Thursday publication that it has today.
While he was the energy that changed the look of multiple newspapers in Carbon County into one, his reign only lasted a few months. Business interests in other places took him away too much, and he decided to sell his interest in the paper to a couple of young employees, Hal McKnight and Val Cowles.
These new owners would be different from anyone before, with the exception of Crockett who held onto a paper in the Carbon County area in one form or another for many years.
Hal McKnight, in particular, would see the paper through the next 34 years as the area changed, the depression ended, a college was founded and nearly closed and three national wars, World War II, the Korean Conflict and the early days of the Vietnam War.
This is one in a series of historical articles that will be published through 2011, the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Sun Advocate.