ST. LOUIS (AP) — Richard "Dick" Thien, a veteran journalist who played a pivotal role in developing USA Today for Gannett Co. Inc. and taught journalism at Kansas University as a professional-in-residence, has died. He was 73.
Thien died Friday of natural causes at Missouri Baptist Hospital in suburban St. Louis, his son, Mark Thien, said Monday. Thien was a two-time cancer survivor.
In 1981, Gannett's CEO, Al Neuharth, chose Thien to be one of five prototype editors for USA Today, the nation's first national general-interest newspaper, which made its debut the following year. Thien was described in the book "The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA Today," as "a gruff, cigar-chewing type who barked like an old-time city editor."
The Associated Press named Thien one of the 12 best editors in the country in 1986. It was among many awards he won in a career that spanned more than four decades.
Thien grew up in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1963.
He worked at newspapers in several states. Early in his career he covered city, county and state government for the Daily Journal-World in Lawrence from 1965 to 1968.
In the late 1980s Thien taught editing and reporting as a professional-in-residence at the KU School of Journalism. Del Brinkman, a former professor and dean at the KU journalism school, said Thien was one of the highest-caliber professionals and best teachers that the program brought in.
"He knew the craft of journalism very well, and he knew how to teach people to be both reporters and writers," Brinkman said. "He was a wonderful wordsmith."
Thien also taught journalism at the State University of New York in Binghamton and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he earned a master's degree in journalism in 1998.
In addition to teaching journalism in college classrooms, Thien was a longtime coach in the Chips Quinn Scholar program for young minority journalists.
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Elaine, three children and three grandchildren. A funeral service is Friday at Kutis Affton Chapel in suburban St. Louis.
Journal-World reporter Ben Unglesbee contributed to this story.