Among other reasons that I like living in Washington DC is the Washington Post. It is on occasion of course a partisan rag, but, hey, it is my partisan rag. It is certainly much better than the trash that they read in some city farther up the coast. The world might have been different, however, had the Post gone Mormon. Apparently it almost did.
In March 1915, J. Reuben Clark, then a Washington DC based lawyer, learned that the owner of the Washington Post might want to sell the paper. He immediately wrote a letter to his contact in the First Presidencyâ€™s office, asking:
Would it not be worth while for President Smith to acquire for the people, through subscription by trustworthy members, either the control of the paper (as he may think best), or the ownership of a large part of it? I recommend the securing of the control which I think can be down. Obviously to retain the value which such a medium would have, it would be necessary that the interest of our people should not be known. (quoted in D. Michael Quinn, Elder Statesman, 24)
In the end the owner decided not to sell the paper and nothing came of Clarkeâ€™s proposal. Still it is interesting to imagine what might have been. In the 1880s the Church laid out a fair amount of money to purchase favorable press coverage (a pretty common political tactic in the era), and Joseph F. Smith kicked money in from time to time to keep the organ of Reed Smootâ€™s political machine in Utah from coming apart at the seams. Furthermore, there were attempts to establish a Mormon paper in Washington, DC from at least the 1850s on. (Orson Prattâ€™s marvelously strange theological speculations were published in The Seer, a short-lived Mormon paper in DC.) As it actually turns out the only Mormon owned media outlet of which I am aware in Washington is 103.5 FM, our local classical music station. The Post would have been much more funâ€¦