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USA Today (trademarked as USA TODAY in capitals) is a national Americanmarker 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 1.9 million copies as of October 2009 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, Canadamarker, the District of Columbiamarker, Puerto Rico, and Guammarker. The newspaper has its headquarters in Tysons Cornermarker, unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginiamarker.


USA Today was founded in 1982 with the goal of providing a national newspaper in the U.S. market, where generally only a single local newspaper and/or a metropolitan daily's state/regional edition was available. The first issue reported on the death of actress Grace Kelly. Colorful and bold, with many large diagrams, charts, and photographs, it contrasted with the relatively colorless papers of the time such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Emphasizing its national focus, USA Today became well-known for its national polls on public sentiment. Another distinctive feature is its "Our View/Opposing View" editorial column, which features not only the paper's view on a current event, but also features the view of someone (individual or group) defending the opposing view.

The concept of a colorful newspaper with national distribution was considered at the paper's launch to be a risk, and the paper received early criticism, receiving the derisive nickname "McPaper". However, the newspaper has striven to set itself apart in distribution methods as well. The paper is still sold in unique newspaper vending machines with curved edges that resemble television sets. USA Today was also eager to latch onto the business traveler and was heavily distributed through airlines, airports, and hotels in addition to other sales outlets. The newspaper was also among the first newspapers to use satellite transmissions to send the final edition of the newspaper to multiple locations across the country for printing and final distribution in those regional markets. The innovation of using satellites and regional printing hubs allowed the paper to push back deadlines and include the most recent news and sports scores in each edition.

In 2001, the newspaper moved into its new 30 acre (120,000 m²) headquarters in Tysons Corner, Virginiamarker, a Washington, D.C.marker, suburb. Its original headquarters, the old USA Today and Gannett, Inc. "silver towers", are located in the neighborhood of Rosslynmarker and are a major landmark on the Washington skyline.

The newspaper's motto, appearing on the top and bottom levels, is The Nation's Newspaper - #1 in the USA.

USA Today is the fourth-largest English language newspaper , behind the Sun (Britain), Daily Mail (Britain) and The Times of India.

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 Canadianmarker 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 very next page, page 2 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 500marker 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. 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 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.

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 Columbiamarker, 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 and Impressionist.

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.

Controversial incidents

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.

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 Cubamarker, Israelmarker and Jordanmarker, and sifting through stacks of hotel record 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.

In May 2006, USA Today reported that the National Security Agencymarker 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. 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.

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.marker Department of Justicemarker 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.” BellSouth, which announced its merger with AT&T on March 5, denies releasing any records to the NSA and requested the newspaper retract claims in its story asserting BellSouth “provided phone records of its customers to NSA.” “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. 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.”

On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit issued a 43-page ruling stating the program is unconstitutional, 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.”

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

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 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), 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 USA Today tabloid, the show was divided into four "sections" corresponding to the different parts of the paper - News, Money, Sports, and Life. The program left the air in early 1990.



Parodies of USA Today have appeared in various movies and TV shows over the years, such as:
  • The Harvard Lampoonmarker published a parody issue of USA Today in 1986.
  • the futuristic 2015 look of a USA Today (Hill Valley edition) 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


External links

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