Long-time journalist realizes her dream as owner/editor of the Sanpete Messenger

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Since the day she could write, Suzanne Dean was born to be a journalist. She can recall the summer of her sixth and seventh grade years reading books about journalism. She fell so in love with journalism that she started her own newspaper growing up in the Sugarhouse/Salt Lake City area. 
“I got together with some neighborhood kids and we started a mimeographed newspaper. We ran off about 30 or 40 copies and I ran it around to each house on the street. This was long before anything like a cell phone and even before Xerox machines,” Dean explained. 
Dean’s mother was the one who first gave her the idea to start her own little newspaper. “My mother was reading the local newspaper one day and came across a page about how you can make a mimeograph machine in a baking pan. She got together all of the materials and we made a little recipe for a solid/jellyish surface and created the newspaper this way after we transferred the ink from the typewriter,” Dean told the Daily Universe.
Mimeograph machines existed at the time, but Dean liked making the newspapers herself. She and the neighborhood kids would write stories about their everyday lives and the neighbors looked forward to their hand-delivered papers every week. “We would run up to the door or leave the papers on the porch. We were consistently writing this little paper all summer. We would write about how a bunch of friends went to Fairmont Park to wade and the boys caught pollywogs and they would put them down girls necks. It was all of that kind of thing,” Dean laughed.  
At age 12, Dean’s love for journalism kept building as she became interested in politics. “Growing up my family didn’t have a television set, but we did have a radio. That was also the year Kennedy’s presidential campaign was going on. I started listening to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and I became so fascinated I became glued to the radio,” Dean explained. 
Suzanne Dean holds a copy of the Sanpete Messenger during her interview with BYU students in March 2019. (Abigail Keenan)

She doesn’t remember the “magic moment” when she knew that journalism was her path. But with her love of writing and politics, she wanted to find a way to blend the two.

While attending Highland High School, Dean was the editor of the “Highland Rambler,” her school newspaper. Before graduating from the University of Utah, she took a class at Utah State University in community journalism. She began thinking she didn’t want to just work for a newspaper — she wanted to own one.
“I always thought it would be fun to be in a small town and have my own newspaper. I used to look at all the classifieds every week and read the newspaper ‘for sale’ columns. At this point it was just a daydream because I didn’t have the money or the notion at the time to do it, but I was always thinking about it.” 
During her junior year at the University of Utah, the journalism fraternity Sigma Delta Chi did not allow women, but changed its policy before she graduated.  Dean was one of the first women to be admitted. “I went through a ceremony where I was presented with objects symbolizing the values of my profession. At the end I had to raise my hand and swear to tell the truth in print for the rest of my professional life,” Dean remembered.
Suzanne Dean’s awards hang on the wall in her office at the Sanpete Messenger. (Abigail Keenan)

After earned her undergraduate degree, she pursued a master’s degree at Columbia University in New York City. She interned the following summer at the Washington Post. The Watergate scandal happened that summer while Dean was an intern. “The very first day that I was at the Washington Post they took all the interns out to lunch and while we were there a couple of people started talking and saying a lot of things about Watergate. It was a really exciting time to be a journalist,” Dean said. 

Once she made her way back to Utah, she took a job with the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, where she worked until 1976. She then found a job teaching journalism at the University of Idaho, filling in for a professor as a temporary instructor. After that, she taught journalism another year in Wyoming. 
She headed for Salt Lake City again, and worked for the public relations department at the University of Utah from 1982-1992.  
The thought of buying a newspaper had never left her; she decided it was time to engage her passion in earnest. She learned that a man named Max Call “might be interested in selling his newspaper, so I sat down and wrote him a letter. Two days later I got a call from him. After that I went into other local newspapers around the area to work with them for a week to gain experience to see how things worked,” Dean said. 
On her first day job shadowing, the editor asked Dean to interview a high school athlete. When she came back with a story and photo all the editor could say was, “Oh my gosh, somebody who can write, thank the Lord.” 
Dean stressed that one of the difficulties with community journalism is finding people who can write using correct grammar and punctuation, and summarize the main point of the story in the first couple of paragraphs.
The Sanpete Messenger located in Manti, Utah. Photo credit: Abigail Keenan

She doesn’t remember all the ins and outs, but finally Dean signed a purchase contract with a $30,000 down payment and bought the Sanpete Messenger on Nov. 1, 2000. At 51, her dream of owning a newspaper had become reality. At the time, the paper was called the Messenger Enterprise. 

A copy of the Sanpete Messenger. Photo credit: Abigail Keenan

Dean made the move from Salt Lake and bought a town house in Ephraim where she still lives. In the years since, there has never been an edition of her newspaper that Dean hasn’t helped produce. The total stands at more than 1,000 and counting.

During her time as owner/editor, Dean has seen a lot of controversy. One of the more heated episodes came as a result of remarks made by Ephraim City Councilman John Scott, who claimed that the reporting in the Sanpete Messenger was full of “half-truths and unethical”.  Dean said she had no problem addressing the councilman about what she and her paper stand for: the truth. 
Suzanne Dean, left, walking along side BYU professor Carrie Moore and BYU student Sarah Matthews outside the Sanpete County Court House. (Abigail Keenan)
Dean knows she has created a legacy of hard work and determination, and turned many of her wildest dreams into reality while upholding the standard she vowed as a student journalist: to tell the truth in print.
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