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Back in the day with Al Neuharth

Al Neuharth (Dave Eggen / Freedom Forum)
Al Neuharth (Dave Eggen / Freedom Forum)

I worked for USA Today in 1983 and 1984, when it was brand spanking new and revolutionary in its short stories, big photos and trend alerts. It was kind of a blog before blogs existed.

The offices outside Washington D.C. were huge and state-of-the-art. The company was spending a lot of money. I was one of many young reporters there at the time. We were cheap, eager and in awe of being part of this grand (and often mocked) journalism experience.

I don't believe I ever spoke to Al Neuharth, but I saw him on a half dozen occasions. I especially remember him at the national conventions in 1984 in San Francisco and Dallas. He was always with a woman and seemed to like beautiful blondes who wore beautiful, expensive clothes.

We gossiped about him a lot, too, and one rumor was that he had all the Gannett newspapers listed on his bed sheets. Very romantic.

He did truly stress diversity and he promoted women. But it was early in women's empowerment in the workplace in our culture. And I still feel sad remembering one woman editor who had a 2-year-old daughter who visited her at dinnertime each day, in the lobby of the newspaper building, never in the newsroom, because it would make the woman manager look weak.

She saw her daughter in the very early morning and then again at dinnertime and that was it. I trust things have gotten more sane for USA Today women now.

I credit USA Today with my ability, 30 years later, to write shorter stories and not lament that they should be longer. And I love blogging.

Neuharth was a visionary, for sure. Just wish now I'd had the courage to talk to him as a 25-year-old reporter.

(S-R archive photo)

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