USA Today founder Al Neuharth, 89, dies

April 20, 2013 at 1:54 AM
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COCOA BEACH, Fla., April 20 (UPI) -- Al Neuharth, who founded USA Today, died Friday at his home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., where he sustained injuries in a fall, the newspaper said. He was 89.

Neuharth, who also started the Freedom Forum, had provided his own description of his career in a final column, "Plain Talk," he wanted published in USA Today after his death, the national newspaper said.

"As a journalist, I had a wonderful window on the world," Neuharth wrote in "Plain Talk," he wrote. "For nearly 50 years as a reporter and editor, I tried to tell stories accurately and fairly, without opinion."

Gracia Matore, chief executive officer of Gannett, which Neuharth had led, called his death "a great loss for all of us in the Gannett family."

"Al was many things -- a journalist, a leader, a serial entrepreneur, and a pioneer in advancing opportunities for women and minorities," Matore said. "But above all, he was an innovator with a unique sense of the public taste. ... I will miss his counsel, and I will miss the man. But as with all great people, what Al built will live on."

The South Dakota native's brainchild, USA Today, was not greeted kindly by many in the news business and elsewhere when he started publishing it in 1982 -- McPaper, they called it, a jab at its short articles and splashy graphics and use of color that they likened to unhealthy fast-food.

But it became profitable within five years and holds sway today as the second-largest newspaper in the nation.

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