While Abraham Lincoln received the very first message sent all the way across the nation that day, a different kind of leader was the first to test out the Salt Lake -- San Francisco wire: Brigham Young, leader of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
Young was given the honor because the Mormons were absolutely crucial in ensuring the construction of the telegraph line. In fact, Young was fantastically gung-ho about the telegraph, and so the ranks of the Mormon Church was were [sic] too.
The Atlantic article includes the text of Brigham Young's message. Mormon assistance was crucial in the effort because they needed Mormon labor and Mormon wood hauled across the desert for telegraph lines where there wasn't any timber.
I don't think times have changed much. The Church is still very big on pursuing anything that will allow it to communicate better inside the Church and outside.
The Church just launched its new web site that is media intensive and it continues to upgrade old digital tools as well as roll out new ones.