Veteran journalist, Al Neuharth, who launched 'USA Today' dies aged 89


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The Independent Online

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, the newspaper which was a laughing-stock when launched in 1982 but became a major success, has died aged 89.

Neuharth changed the look of American newspapers by filling USA Today with breezy, easy-to-comprehend articles, attention-grabbing graphics and stories that often didn't require readers to jump to a different page. "Our target was college-age people who were non-readers. We thought they were getting enough serious stuff in classes," Mr Neuharth said in 1995.

USA Today was unlike any US paper when it was launched. Its style was widely derided but later widely imitated. Advertisers were at first reluctant to use a newspaper that might compete with local dailies. But circulation grew. In 1999, it edged past the The Wall Street Journal with 1.75 million daily copies, to take the title of the nation's biggest newspaper, an accolade it still claims today.

Mr Neuharth was also proud of his record in bringing more minorities and women into newsrooms and on to the board of directors. When he became chief executive, the board was all white and male. By the time he retired, the board had four women and three non-white members.

Mr Neuharth was born in 1924, in Eureka, South Dakota. His first job , aged 11, was as newspaper carrier and as a teenager he worked in the composing room of the local weekly. After earning a bronze star in the Second World War, and armed with a journalism degree, he worked for the AP agency for two years. Then, in 1952, he launched a South Dakota sports weekly. It was a failure, but gave him the experience that led to USA Today.