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Archive for Friday, November 17, 1989

GANNETT CHIEF HAILS GLOBAL VILLAGE

November 17, 1989

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There'll be no more "JetCapades" or "BusCapades" for Allen Neuharth.

"No, I think I've done my `capading,'" the USA Today founder said Thursday in Lawrence. "I'll think of something else."

But Neuharth, who retired as chairman of the Gannett media empire in March, still gets around. Neuharth was traveling this week from Cincinnati to San Diego and decided to make a brief stop in Lawrence.

Neuharth, who chairs the Gannett Foundation, said he has toured many cities with Gannett newspapers and many college campuses in recent weeks. And everywhere he went, people asked him why he ranked the University of North Carolina and Kansas University as the top two journalism schools in the country.

"I thought I'd better come down and make sure I did the right thing," he said with a smile.

AFTER A tour of the Journal-World, which prints USA Today, Neuharth spent the rest of his Lawrence visit on Mount Oread. He attended a luncheon at the Adams Alumni Center and spent an hour talking with a KU journalism class.

Neuharth told students his greatest thrill in the last few years was the realization that the world has become a global village, held together by the communications industry.

Neuharth said the changes technology has brought struck him last year when the "JetCapade" stopped in India. At a village outside New Delhi, Neuharth said, he saw a group of about 40 people squatted on the ground, looking into a tent.

"They were watching international news being beamed to them via satellite on CNN," he said. "They were absolutely enchanted by the fact they were receiving news of the world in this village."

While he feels good about the future of journalism, Neuharth said he sees some problems on the horizon.

THE BIGGEST problem is "the use, misuse or abuse" of confidential news sources, he said. Neuharth said he instituted a policy of attributing all information when he founded USA Today and "it gave us almost instant credibility."

Another problem, he said, is the media has been quick to preach equal opportunity, but slow to practice it. White males fill most top posts on newspapers and TV and radio stations, he said, which doesn't mirror the readership.

Neuharth said he turned that around at Gannett. One of his recruits, Cathleen Black, is now publisher of USA Today.

Neuharth said newspaper pages also should reflect the diversity of the readership. Although he dislikes formula editing, Neuharth said he demanded in USA Today's first six months that if there were four photographs on a page, at least one had to be a non-white and one had to be a woman.

NEUHARTH acknowledged that he's drawn a lot of heat from feminists about his "Sky Girls" column that appeared last summer in USA Today.

But Neuharth said he feels he was right to criticize airlines' flight service, which "has gone to pot" over the years.

Neuharth said 95 percent of the flight attendants he met in the first few weeks after the column appeared were angry at him, but "now it's done a complete flip-flop."

On his flight the other day from Detroit to Cincinnati, a flight attendant asked him to autograph a copy of his book for her, he said.

"Most of them want to do a good job and don't resent criticism," he said.

Another problem Neuharth sees is a reluctance by most in the media to criticize themselves or others in the news business.

"Most of us in the profession spend most of our careers criticizing and commenting on others," he said. "We seldom turn that spotlight on ourselves.

Neuharth did just that in his autobiography, "Confessions of an S.O.B.," which has been on the New York Times' best-seller list for several weeks.

The book's popularity was a surprise, he said, adding, "I'm kind of a novice at it."

Neuharth said he probably likes the last few chapters, which contain comments from his ex-wives and other family members, as well as any part of the book.

"I've had as much comment about that as anything," he said.

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