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USA Today founder Allen Neuharth dead at 89

"Al Neuharth reinvented news,'' USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer says.

Story highlights

  • Allen H. Neuharth championed USA Today against a skeptical board
  • His bold risk paid off as a journalistic success
  • "The editors who called us McPaper stole our McNuggets," he liked to say
  • He died after suffering injuries in a fall at his Florida home

Allen H. Neuharth, who revolutionized American newspapering by founding USA Today with its colorful layouts and concise storytelling that influenced many media empires, died Friday in his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the newspaper said. He was 89.

"The longtime newspaperman, media executive and columnist died after sustaining injuries in a fall at his home," USA Today said.

Neuharth was a former chairman of Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and 81 other newspapers, who made journalistic history when he took a bold risk launching a daily in 1982 that declared itself the first general interest national newspaper. He battled his own board of directors in championing the publication.

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.

The iconoclastic Neuharth was fond of saying that "the editors who called us McPaper stole our McNuggets."

"Al Neuharth reinvented news,'' USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer said in the newspaper's obituary. "Even in our recent efforts to translate his vision into the modern world of digital journalism, we relied on him to tell us if we were going in the right direction."

Neuharth "was, is and always will be USA Today," Dave Callaway, the editor-in-chief, added. "He holds a remarkable place in the history of American journalism, and the spirit and passion which he brought to our industry will never be extinguished."

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