The extraordinary visionary and USA Today newspaper founder Al Neuharth, the former chairman of the Gannett Newspaper chain who started the nation’s first general interest national newspaper in 1982, has died at age 89.
“As a journalist, I had a wonderful window on the world,” Neuharth wrote in “Plain Talk,” a final column he said should be published in USA TODAY after his death. “For nearly 50 years as a reporter and editor, I tried to tell stories accurately and fairly, without opinion.”
The longtime newspaperman, media executive and columnist died after sustaining injuries in a fall at his home.
Blessed with an unbeatable combination of journalistic genius and boardroom brilliance, Neuharth was a self-described “dreamer and schemer” who helped build Gannett into one of America’s largest media companies.
More importantly, Neuharth championed the careers of women, blacks and other minorities inside Gannett and on its front pages. Against the advisement of his own board of directors, Neuharth gave the nation its first general interest national newspaper in 1982.
Like his controversial and widely-admired contemporary, Ted Turner, who also founded CNN in the 1980s, he changed forever the way news was covered and how it would be presented to the country.
“Al’s passing is a great loss for all of us in the Gannett family,” said Gannett CEO Gracia Martore. “Al was many things — a journalist, a leader, a serial entrepreneur and a pioneer in advancing opportunities for women and minorities. 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.”