For a decade the Journal-Worldhas rolled its presses at night to serve Midwest readers of USA Today.
Ronald Reagan was president. The final episode of M*A*S*H had just been broadcast. Space shuttle Challenger was about to make its maiden voyage.
The date was April 2, 1984, the day that USA Today rolled off the Journal-World printing presses for the first time.
Ten years later, a growing number of people in Kansas and surrounding states are reading the colorful national newspaper printed by an award-winning crew at the Journal-World production center.
On Thursday, the USA Today production team at the J-W was honored as the top site in USA Today's central region, which has eight printing sites.
The crew was the No. 2 group among 32 printing sites in the nation in 1993, continuing its record of recognition for printing excellence. The crew has received numerous citations in its 10 years.
"I'm extremely proud of all the people involved in the production of the newspaper," said Dolph C. Simons Jr., editor and publisher of the Journal-World.
Awards are based on a day-by-day assessment of production and quality measures, said Ken Kirkhart, USA Today vice president for production.
During a tour Thursday of the J-W, he said the Lawrence site was able to meet the most difficult challenge in newspaper publishing -- consistency.
"It's hard to knock it down each and every day," Kirkhart said.
Copies of USA Today printed in Lawrence are shipped to cities in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
USA Today, headquartered in Arlington, Va., began publication Sept. 15, 1982.
Kirkhart said the newspaper's design innovations -- liberal use of color and reliance on compact stories -- have been borrowed by many U.S. newspapers.
"Even people who said bad things about us have adopted elements," he said.
Simons said publication of USA Today in Lawrence helped raise production quality standards for the Journal-World. In 1988, the J-W constructed an addition to accommodate a new, larger printing press and increase newsprint storage capacity.
"We were able to add a building and made a substantial investment in downtown Lawrence. This operation has brought new jobs. It's had a positive economic impact," he said.
Stories and photographs for each page of USA Today are transmitted to the J-W printing plant from a satellite in stationary orbit 22,000 miles above the Pacific Ocean.
A market research company reported in 1992 that USA Today was the most widely read newspaper in the nation, with a daily readership of six million.
The average daily paid circulation, Monday to Friday, was 2.03 million in 1993.