Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'McPaper' still gets it...

Stumbled across a copy of Peter Prichard's "The Making of McPaper," a 1987 look at the founding and early days of USA TODAY. Read it a couple of weekends ago and had a good time.

Which wasn't a surprise. I've always enjoyed the newspaper once derided as "McPaper." Founder Al Neuharth just seemed to "get it." He read the surveys that said readers rarely made the "jump" whenever a front page story was tagged to an inside page. So he forced his writers to write concisely. But he also made sure they jammed the stories full of information.

OK, so maybe the graphs are basically pointless, but USA TODAY was the perfect paper for the TV generation. Heck, Neuharth even had his circulation guys design USA TODAY paper boxes to look like TV sets.

I made it a habit to read the paper when I was in college. You could get it anywhere on the UT campus in those days. It was always a quick, fun read. Plus, it gave you a nice summary of the news in the days before the internet really got going.

The other day I picked up a copy of USA TODAY at the gas station. And, I noticed what I thought was a mistake.

In a story about Betty Ford's funeral, the writer appeared to be saying that Mrs. Ford's husband, former president Gerald Ford, died in 2007. I remembered that he'd died in December 2006, so I sent an email to the corrections editor.

About a day or so later, I got a personal response from somebody on the news staff saying that the writer had constructed an awkward sentence, thereby "creating" an error. She thanked me for the email and said a clarification would run in Friday's edition. Sure enough, it did.

Not only was I impressed with the newspaper's commitment to accuracy, but I was blown away by the personal response. Over the years I've sent letters to reporters, editors and writers at newspapers of much less reputation and significance than USA TODAY -- and never heard a peep! And yet, despite all the correspondence Gannett's national newspaper must receive daily, here came the note.

Quality customer service is hard to find. Getting that email made me feel good about forking out a buck to spend valuable time with the USA TODAY. The paper's smartphone app is the best one of its kind. Its website has gone interactive with polls, video, bells and whistles. I hear its iPad version is pretty cool, too.

After all these years, McPaper still gets it.

UPDATE: After I posted this blog, USA TODAY's social media team found it on Twitter and responded with thanks and kind words. USA TODAY, you have a reader for life! As I said in the tweet, reading your paper is like spending time with an old friend.

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Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Hey Jake ... On a totally unrelated subject, just wanted to give you my thoughts on the FNL finale .. overall, a first-rate way to go out .. A bit episodic, but they had a lot to cram in there ... I especially enjoyed the state finals game with just the music, and was worried for a second that they were really going to leave the outcome in doubt, but should have known better ... I loved how they just slipped in Vince's state champ ring ... As for how Coach and Mrs. Taylor ended up, it was great that he finally gave in (you knew he would), but I really can't see anyway a movie will come out of that ending

7:23 AM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I knew you would. I am truly going to miss these characters -- probably as much if not more since the members of the 4077th "went home" on "M*A*S*H." Like you, I don't know how they do a movie, unless they update the characters' lives about five years or so into the future. It was a great series that will indeed be missed. I still can't believe it ran for five seasons. That in itself is a minor miracle.

10:10 AM  

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