Neuharth was a giant of a newsman. He was also a self-described SOB who wrote a book — “Confessions of an S.O.B.” — to prove it.
Neuharth, who is known as the founder of USA TODAY and who wrote a column for that newspaper until the end of his life, was one of the reasons I went to work at USA TODAY and Gannett 27 years ago.
Whenever Neuharth, also at the time Gannett’s CEO, and a few other senior Gannett officials would give an interview or speak to industry leaders about any topic, he would always find a way to weave into his talk the value Gannett placed on having women and people of color hold positions on every level in the company. Neuharth’s position spoke to the very core of my own belief, that staff diversity is a way to ensure that journalists report with accuracy.
He was the venerable example of someone who didn’t just talk about diversity, but he made sure his company’s managers were held accountable for diversity. For a long time, that culture filtered down through the organization. And he took that culture with him when he later became chairman of the Freedom Forum, which asked me to become the founding executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in 2000.
Gannett’s current CEO, Gracia Matore said this of Neuharth in a statement: “Al was many things — a journalist, a leader, a serial entrepreneur, and a pioneer in advancing opportunities for women and minorities.”
He was that and so much more.