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Newspapers' battle for Carbon County heats up in April 1907 1907

Sun Advocate publisher

The explosion in Winter Quarters that killed 199 men was a harbinger of things to come in Carbon County. There would not only be more disasters awaiting miners in the area, but the effect of the disaster in what was considered to be one of the safest coal mines in the west created a chilling feeling that owners, operators and miners could not shake for a long time.

And in the middle of this economic and social disaster that left 107 widows and 268 orphans, was the battle between the Eastern Utah Advocate and the Carbon County news for claims on the readership of the county. While the Advocate remained optimistic in its tone, the reality was that issue after issue was filled with unemployment news and a bleak outlook for coal.

The Advocate, now owned by Robert and John Crockett, despite being the oldest newspaper in the area, suddenly found themselves with strong competition from the Carbon County news which was started in April of 1907. For over a half decade the Crocketts had had the market to themselves, but the new paper claimed it would be the true voice of the county and that the old newspaper was stale and not up to date.

The News was begun by J.H. Nelson, but would have a succession of owners over the years. By 1908 the paper had new owners in the likes of B.R. McDonald and J.B. Middleton. Then the next year the ownership would change again and again as J. David Larson and Sid J. Whitehead took over in April and then E.J. Dunn and H.C. Smith would take over in August of that year. With a succession of owners and publishers ,some of the message of the paper was lost, but in August of 1911, W.C. Benfer would take the News over and that would be a solidifying force for some time to come.

About the time that the News appeared on the scene, however, the Advocate made some big changes to the look of the publication. Whether this was driven by the new competition or was something the longest owners of the paper so far had planned is unknown. Tiny headlines which once held the top of the page had been replaced by much larger heads. The paper went from a seven column layout to a tabloid look. Most importantly, columns of local news had been added weekly instead of a hit and miss with local while filled with national and boilerplate news.

With both newspapers publishing weekly (the Advocate came out on Wednesdays, and the News on Fridays) many people took both papers because the news in one was up to date for that day. For instance the Advocate issue of March 4. 1909 reported a terrible accident on Feb. 26 in Winter Quarters where a woman and her two children were run down on the tracks by a loose rail car, killing all of them. It was in the main column on the front and top of the paper. But because of the date of the accident, which took place a day before the last issue of the News was printed, the News had carried the story (but farther down the page) in its Feb. 27 issue, five days before. This became a major problem for both papers because of the recentness of the news. However readers were obviously served better because of the competition.

The newspapers also took different tacks on the news as well. The news, and it's editor Heber C. Smith, once complained of the fact that all the Republican nominees for county offices were employees of the Utah Fuel Company. While Crockett generally remained neutral (but personally leaned Republican as he told many people) he took issue with the statement, pointing out that four of the nine running for office were employees of the company and that they had the right to be represented since they paid seven ninths of the taxes in the county.

Since both companies were also in the printing business, Smith (who was a Democrat running for county clerk and recorder again) also complained that the Advocate got most of the county's printing business. However, Crockett pointed out that when Smith had had the job he was running for before, he had given most of the business to the paper "in which he had financial interests."

The battles for constant from 1909 until 1915, when an unusual event occurred. The Eastern Utah Advocate went out of existence basically in name only, and Crockett began publishing The Price Sun.

This is one in a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate that will run periodically through 2011 when the paper celebrates its 120 anniversary. Information for the stories comes from the Utah Digital Newspapers archives, UPA... A Century Later by Jim Cornwell and from A history of the Sun Advocate (masters thesis) by Edith May Allred.

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