FROM THE EDITOR: USA Today’s ‘fast-food news’ ahead of its time

Farm Forum


That’s what critics called USA Today when it debuted in 1982, all colorful and breezy and even a little weird. The paper was mocked as fast-food news, or worse, junk food news.

As an 11-year-old newspaper fan, I recall being keenly interested in USA Today, the new national newspaper. I really only knew my hometown paper, the South Bend, Ind., Tribune, and the nearest big-city paper, the Chicago Tribune.

My picture ran on the front page of the local newspaper just a few years earlier. In black-and-white.

To think that this new newspaper was going to be published daily in color seemed a miracle in my young mind.

But that was the vision of USA Today founder Al Neuharth, who revolutionized the way newspapers do, well, newspapers.

The Eureka native died Friday in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at age 89.

At first, USA Today seemed a flop, and it was derided for having short stories for short-minded readers. In the haze of memory, I always equate those early USA Today days with the failure of New Coke, another only-in-the-’80s invention.

In fact, USA Today was responding to changing reader habits and expectations before anyone else. Today, 31 years later, studies show readers like color photos and pages. They like easy navigation. They like what we call “breakouts” — explainers, charts and graphics. They like short stories, and stories that don’t jump from page to page.

USA Today really found its niche not in home delivery to every state in the union. Rather, they are the traveler’s paper, ubiquitous in hotels and airports. They produce the Parade competitor USA Weekend, and popular seasonal sports and event guides.

And it was all spearheaded by Neuharth.

Neuharth’s legacy will continue to be felt in our newsroom, too. We have had several interns and hired journalists who have been trained through the Freedom Forum’s Diversity Institute and Chips Quinn Scholars programs. Neuharth founded the Freedom Forum in 1991.

Missing paper? 229-5555

I’ve noticed in the past few weeks more and more customers leaving their complaints about delivery on various phones in our newsroom.

The callers are already angry they are missing their paper. Not reaching a live person adds to their frustration. When they call, they hit buttons on the phone trying to reach a warm body.

Those random messages won’t help the customers get their paper.

Let me help right now. Clip and save this information; put it by your phone or hang it on your refrigerator.

Missing your American News?

Call customer service:

605-229-5555 or 800-925-4100

If no one answers, follow the prompts and leave a

message with your name, address and phone number.

The best advice is to call early, especially on weekends. Customer service is staffed 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but only 6-10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. If your Sunday paper is late, call that 229-5555 number before 10 a.m., follow the prompts and leave a message if no one answers.

Don’t forget: If you get home delivery, you are likely qualified to receive the e-edition of the newspaper for free on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Go to to learn more.

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