“The longtime newspaperman, media executive and columnist died after sustaining injuries in a fall at his home,” USA Today said.
Critics dubbed USA Today “McPaper” when it debuted in 1982, and they accused its founder, Al Neuharth, of dumbing down American journalism with its easy-to-read articles and bright graphics. He will be remembered as the “foremost journalism educator of the 20th century,” according to John K. Hartman, author of two books about USA TODAY.
most-circulated newspaper in the late 1990s.
“Neuharth launched the national daily newspaper on Sept. 15, 1982, at a time when the daily newspaper industry was beginning to slip and lose its grip on younger readers,” Hartman, a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University, said.
Some traditionalists of American journalism criticized USA Today for its emphasis on shorter articles — calling it “McPaper” — but the paper developed into an extraordinary success financially and journalistically. The newspaper is now the nation’s second-largest daily.
“With the help of brothers John and Tom Curley and others, Neuharth invented a new style of newspaper that was modeled on television newscasts of that time. It had short articles, pithy headlines, color pictures and lots of graphic displays along with intense coverage of sports and entertainment in contrast to the wordy and unimaginative newspapers of that time.”
USA Today was unlike any newspaper before it when it debuted in 1982. Its style was widely derided but later widely imitated. Many news veterans gave it few chances for survival.