OUR VOICE: Al Neuharth a loyal son of South Dakota

Farm Forum

As the voices came in Friday night from around the country remembering Al Neuharth, the famed newspaperman best known for founding USA Today, some themes quickly became clear:

Loyal. Innovative. Remembered his roots. Gave back to his community. Proud.

The people we celebrate seem to have these traits in common. Neuharth had them in full — and he was anything but common. His death Friday marked the end of a remarkable life and career.

Neuharth’s Eureka moment began March 22, 1924. And no matter where his life or career took him over his 89 years, he remained a true South Dakotan.

Loyal. Proud. Generous. Innovative.

His newspaper roots were deep in this state’s rich pastimes, and his penchant to “go big” was demonstrated early. More than 60 years ago, Neuharth and a friend launched a statewide weekly sports newspaper, SoDak Sports.

That publication, by all accounts, failed quickly.

But it wasn’t the last time we’d hear of Neuharth.

From his stint as editor of the University of South Dakota’s student newspaper, The Volante, to his reporting and managing jobs in the country’s largest newspaper company, Gannett, Neuharth continued to innovate.

In 1982, USA Today was born, 30 years after most of us would have called it quits, having failed at something such as SoDak Sports.

Neuharth would next give back to the industry he loved, founding the Freedom Forum in 1991, a nonprofit organization to champion the First Amendment and create a solid foundation for journalism.

His Freedom Forum trained journalists and promoted diversity in the industry. In South Dakota, that training was seen in the American Indian Journalism Institute and the Crazy Horse Journalism Workshop.

Now, it’s time to say thanks to Neuharth for his contributions, and how well he represented his home state.

And it’s also time for South Dakotans to be proud of one of its most loyal sons.

— American News editorial board