USA Today

USA Today
USA Today
USA Today Logo.svg

The paper's January 24, 2011 front page
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner Gannett Company, Inc.
Founder Al Neuharth
Editor David Hunke, Publisher
John Hillkirk, Editor
Brian Gallagher, Editorial page editor
Founded September 15, 1982
Headquarters 7950 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, Virginia, 22108
Circulation 1,830,594[1]
Sister newspapers USA Weekend
USA Today Sports Weekly
ISSN 0734-7456
Official website

USA Today is a national American daily newspaper published by the Gannett Company. It was founded by Al Neuharth. The newspaper vies with The Wall Street Journal for the position of having the widest circulation of any newspaper in the United States, something it previously held since 2003. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the paper has 1.8 million copies as of March 2010[2] compared to the Wall Street Journal's 2.1 million though this figure includes the WSJ's 400,000 paid-for, online subscribers. USA Today remains the widest circulated print newspaper in the United States. USA Today is distributed in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Canada and the United Kingdom. The newspaper has its headquarters in the Tysons Corner area of Fairfax County, Virginia.[3] Currently, USA Today sells for US$1.00 in newsstands; however, it is often found free at hotels and airports that distribute it to their customers.


Layout and format

USA Today is known for synthesizing news down to easy-to-read-and-comprehend stories. In the main edition seen in the United States and some Canadian cities, each edition consists of four sections: News (the oft-labeled "front page" section), Money, Sports, and Life. On Fridays, two Life sections are included: the regular Life for entertainment (subtitled Weekend; section E), which features television, a DVD column, film reviews and trends, and a travel supplement called Destinations & Diversions (section D). The international edition of the paper features News and Money and Sports and Life combined into two sections.

The paper does not print on Saturdays and Sundays. USA Today prints each complete story on the front page of the respective section with exception to the cover story. The cover story is a longer story that requires a jump (readers must turn to another page in the paper to complete the story, usually the next page of that section). On certain days, the news or sports section will take up two paper sections, and there will be a second cover story within the second section.

Each section is denoted by a certain color to differentiate sections beyond lettering and is seen in a box the top-left corner of the first page, with News being blue (section A), Money with green (section B), red for Sports (section C), and purple for Life (section D). Orange is used for bonus sections (section E or above), which are published occasionally such as for business travel trends and the Olympics; other bonus sections for sports (such as for the PGA Tour preview, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, Memorial Day auto races (Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600), NFL opening weekend and the Super Bowl) previously used the orange color, but now use the sports red in their bonus sections. On days featuring bonus sections or business holidays (when the four pages of stock tables are unneeded), the Money and Life sections are usually combined into one section, while combinations of the Friday Life editions into one section are common during quiet weeks.

In many ways, USA Today is set up to break the typical newspaper layout. Some examples of that divergence from tradition include using the left-hand quarter of each section as reefers, sometimes using sentence-length blurbs to describe stories inside. It is also the only paper in the United States to utilize the Gulliver font, which is used for both headlines and stories.[4] Being a national newspaper, USA Today cannot focus on the weather for any one city. Therefore, the entire back page of the News section is used for weather maps and temperature lists for the entire United States and many cities throughout the world, with data provided by Weather Channel meteorologists. In the bottom left-hand corner of the weather page is a graphic called "Weather Focus," which explains different meteorological phenomena. On some days, the Weather Focus could be a photo of a rare meteorological event. On Mondays, the Money section uses its back page to present an unusual graphic depicting the performance of various industry groups as a function of quarterly, monthly and weekly movements against the S&P 500.

Book coverage, including reviews and a national sales chart is seen on Thursdays in Life, with the official full A.C. Nielsen television ratings chart printed on Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on release. The paper also publishes the Mediabase survey for several genres of music, based on radio airplay spins on Tuesdays, along with their own chart of the top ten singles in general on Wednesdays. Advertising coverage is seen in the Monday Money section, which often includes a review of a current television ad, and after Super Bowl Sunday, a review of the ads aired during the broadcast with the results of the Ad Track live survey.

USA Today is headquartered in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

One of the staples of the News section is a state-by-state roundup of headlines. The summaries consist of paragraph-length Associated Press reports highlighting one story of note in each state, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory.

Some traditions have been retained, however. The lead story still appears on the upper-right hand of the front page. Commentary and political cartoons occupy the last few pages of the News section. Stock and mutual fund data are presented in the Money section. But USA Today is sufficiently different in aesthetics to be recognized on sight, even in a mix of other newspapers, such as at a newsstand. The overall design and layout of USA Today has been described as both neo-Victorian[5] and Impressionist.[6]

Also, in most of the sections' front pages, on the lower left hand corner, are "USA Today Snapshots", which give statistics of various lifestyle interests according to the section it is in (for example, a snapshot in "Life" could show how many people tend to watch a certain genre of television show based upon the type of mood they are in at the time). These "Snapshots" are shown through graphs which are made up of various illustrations of objects that roughly pertain to the graphs subject matter (using the example above, the graph's bars could be made up of several TV sets, or ended by one). These are usually loosely based on research by a national institute (with the source in the box below the graph in fine print to show credit).

Starting in February 2008, the newspaper added a magazine supplement called Open Air, appearing several times a year.

2011 Tweaks

On January 24th, 2011, to reverse a slide of revenue, the paper introduced a tweaked format, changing a few looks of the front pages of sections.[7]

Some of the changes include:

  • A larger logo at the top.
  • A new sans-serif font, called Prelo, for certain headlines of main stories.
  • Increasing and decreasing of mastheads and white space in order to present a cleaner style.

Opinion Section

The opinion section prints USA Today editorials, columns by guest writers and members of the Board of Contributors[8], letters to the editor, and editorial cartoons. One unique feature of the USA Today editorial page is the publication of opposing points of view: alongside the editorial board's piece on the day's topic runs an opposing view by a guest writer, often an expert in the field.[9]

The current Editorial Page Editor is Brian Gallagher, who has worked for the newspaper since its founding in 1982. Other members of the Editorial Board include deputy editorial page editor Bill Sternberg, executive Forum editor John Siniff, op-ed/Forum page editor Glen Nishimura, operations editor Thuan Le Elston, letters editor Michelle Poblete, web content editor Eileen Rivers, and editorial writers Dan Carney, George Hager, and Saundra Torry.[10] The newspaper's website calls this group "demographically and ideologically diverse."[9]

Newsroom restructuring

On August 27, 2010, USA Today announced that they would be reorganizing their newsroom. 130 people are to be laid off, a new publication called USA Today Sports will be created, and the paper will be shifting its focus away from print and more on digital platforms like USA and their mobile phone applications (apps).

Controversial incidents

Arthur Ashe

In 1988, Arthur Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he had received during one of his two heart surgeries. He and his wife kept his illness private until April 8, 1992, when reports that the newspaper USA Today was about to publish a story about his condition forced him to make a public announcement that he had the disease.

Jack Kelley

In March 2004, the newspaper was hit by a major scandal when it was revealed that Jack Kelley, a long-time USA Today correspondent and nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, had been fabricating stories. The newspaper did an extensive review of Kelley's stories, including sending investigators to Cuba, Israel and Jordan, and sifting through stacks of hotel records to determine if Kelley was in the locations he claimed to be filing stories from. Kelley resigned, but denied the charges. The paper's publisher, Craig Moon, issued a public apology on the front page of the newspaper. Many remarked on the similarity of this scandal to that of the Jayson Blair situation at the New York Times, although it received less national attention.

NSA Database

In May 2006, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had been working with AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth to compile “the largest database in the world,” according to the anonymous sources inside the agency that went public.[11] This allowed the paper to uncover a new facet of the agency and further upset the White House after the New York Times revealed the Bush administration authorized the NSA to wiretap international phone calls and e-mails traveling within the U.S.[12]

Both stories challenged the administration's ability to spy on alleged terrorists without a judge’s approval, a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established in 1978. But unlike the Times' story, the USA Today story provoked private telecommunications companies to enter the debate amid the initial developments for the next Telecommunications Act, popularly nicknamed the "net neutrality" or "equal internet access" bill.

On June 29, 2006, a press release for AT&T stated, “The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that AT&T may neither confirm nor deny AT&T's participation in the alleged NSA program because doing so would cause ‘exceptionally grave harm to national security’ and would violate both civil and criminal statutes.”[13] BellSouth, which announced its merger with AT&T on March 5,[14] denies releasing any records to the NSA [15] and requested the newspaper retract claims in its story asserting BellSouth “provided phone records of its customers to NSA.”[16] “Both BellSouth and Verizon Communications Inc., another company cited in the story, denied this week that they provided the calling records,” according to the AP.[17] On June 30, USA Today published a statement: “The denial was unexpected. The newspaper had spoken with BellSouth and Verizon for several weeks about the substance of the report.”[18]

On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit issued a 43-page ruling stating the program is unconstitutional,[19] but did not immediately suspend the program and grants a temporary stay, in which the American Civil Liberties Union continued fighting the program's legality in the case ACLU v. NSA.

Taylor’s ruling states the program violates the FISA court standards, which provide oversight for all wire taps. The FISA court provides retroactive review of all government wiretaps and allows all government agencies 72 hours before presenting their case for wiretapping before the court. “There are no hereditary kings in America and no such powers created by the constitution,” Taylor writes.

In a USA Today editorial, the staff wrote, “Much has changed since terrorists rammed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But one thing that has not is that America is a constitutional democracy with checks and balances. A ruling such as Thursday’s is a useful and forceful affirmation of that.”[20]

The White House issued a statement saying that it disagreed with the decision and declared that the program was legal.[21]

Finally in 2007, the Taylor ruling was reversed for lack of evidence by the Supreme Court, which said that the ACLU had no evidence that its own communications had been intercepted without a warrant, and therefore the ACLU did not have a basis to challenge the legality of the wiretaps. The majority decision denied that the ACLU had the standing to bring the case to court. The Supreme Court declined to rule on the legality of the wiretap program.

TV show

In the fall of 1988, an attempt was made to bring the breezy style of USA Today to television. The result was the syndicated series USA Today: The Television Show (later re-titled USA Today on TV, then simply USA Today), which was a joint venture between Gannett and producer Grant Tinker. Correspondents on the series included Edie Magnus, Robin Young, Boyd Matson, Kenneth Walker, Dale Harimoto, Ann Abernathy, Bill Macatee, and Beth Ruyak. As with the newspaper itself, the show was divided into four "sections" corresponding to the different parts of the paper – News, Money, Sports, and Life. The series did not really catch on ratings-wise and was canceled in January 1990, lasting about one and a half seasons.



Parodies of USA Today have appeared in various films and TV shows over the years, such as:

  • The Harvard Lampoon published a parody issue of USA Today in 1986.
  • A futuristic 2015 edition of USA Today (Hill Valley edition) is seen in Back to the Future Part II (1989)
  • A spinoff red planet version entitled Mars Today seen in Total Recall (1990)
  • An animated, dynamically updating e-paper version seen in Minority Report (2002)
  • A paper called BSA Today in an alternate reality where North America is still governed by the United Kingdom as the British States of America, seen in Sliders (1995)
  • Universe Today appeared in Babylon 5. The newspaper is custom-printed at a booth, where each customer can choose certain sections to include or exclude. It included at least an "Eye on Minbari" section.
  • An extended sequence of Doonesbury strips in the 1980s mocked the paper.
  • In The Simpsons episode Homer Defined, Homer reads a newspaper called USofA Today with the cover story: "America's Favorite Pencil - #2 is #1." Homer reads aloud another headline: "SAT scores are declining at a slower rate." After Lisa criticizes it, Homer says "this is the only newspaper in the country that is not afraid to tell the truth: that everything is just fine".
  • The comedy publication The Onion publishes a feature on its front page called "Statshot," patterned after similar statistics published on the front page of USA Today.
  • The 1988 computer game Hidden Agenda featured excerpts from a newspaper called 'USA Yesterday' in press digests.
  • The alternate history movie C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) features a newspaper called CSA Today.
  • Country musician Alan Jackson has a song Entitled "USA Today" in which the paper thinks about doing a story of the loneliest man in the "USA Today". The Song is on his What I Do CD released in 2004.
  • Comedian Stephen Colbert frequently refers to it as "Today's The USA Today". He sarcastically criticizes the newspaper for its abundant use of colors and flashy, uninformative infographics.

See also


  1. ^ "Circulation numbers for the 25 largest newspapers". The Boston Globe. 2010-10-25. 
  2. ^ Plambeck, Joseph (2010-04-26). "Newspaper Circulation Falls Nearly 9%". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  3. ^ "Tysons Corner CDP, Virginia." United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 7, 2009.
  4. ^ USA Today gets a face-lift, Newspapers and Technology, May 2000
  5. ^ Barnhurst, Kevin G. (2006). "After Modernism". Ammerican Media in the XX Century: Chapter 1 (part 5). University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 2007-05-03. "The mélange of styles and practices in printed and now web-based newspapers, although postmodern in terms of scholarly and design thinking, might more meaningfully be understood as neo-Victorian. The new styles, embodied most famously in USA Today and its clones, mark a return to the mystifying abundance of facts and stories that newspapers of the industrial revolution made visually present to readers." 
  6. ^ Stephen Colbert (13 November 2006). The Colbert Report, Episode 2143 (TV-Series). Comedy Central. "The world is so scary now, do we really want to see the world in crisp detail? I mean, shouldn’t we want to see the world right now more like an impressionist painting, kind of blurry, a lot of color and light but not much information … like USA TODAY" 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^ Cauley, Leslie (2006-05-11). "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  12. ^ Risen, James; Eric Lichtblau (2005-12-15). "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts" (Fee). The New York Times: p. A1. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  13. ^ "AT&T Statement on NSA Issue" (Press release). AT&T. 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  14. ^ "AT&T, BellSouth to Merge" (Press release). AT&T. 2006-03-05. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  15. ^ Cauley, Leslie (2006-05-16). "In statement, BellSouth denies giving information to National Security Agency". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  16. ^ Pelofsky, Jeremy (2007-05-23). "US FCC chief says won't probe NSA call program". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (2006-05-18). "BellSouth Wants USA Today Retraction: Paper Claimed Telecom Company Gave Phone Records To NSA". CBS News. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  18. ^ "A Note to Our Readers". USA Today. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  19. ^ Jackson, David (2006-08-17). "Judge: NSA warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  20. ^ USA Today editorial staff (2006-08-17). "Wiretap ruling affirms that presidents aren't monarchs". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-03. '
  21. ^ "Statement on the Terrorist Surveillance Program" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary, White House. 2006-08-17. Retrieved 2007-05-03. "We couldn’t disagree more with this ruling… The Terrorist Surveillance Program is firmly grounded in law and regularly reviewed to make sure steps are taken to protect civil liberties." 

External links

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