RIP Al Neuharth: He reinvented the only medium older than radio | TALKERS magazine - talk media trade : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

RIP Al Neuharth: He reinvented the only medium older than radio

| April 22, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


BLOCK ISLAND — Especially after last week, talk radio should heed the words of a media giant we now mourn: “They want to trust whatever voices they’re listening to.”

Allen H. Neuharth was the Gannett chairman who founded USA TODAY, and later helped create a The Newseum, the museum of news, which warrants adding an entire day to your next trip to Washington.

His 1989 autobiography “Confessions of an S.O.B.” is still canny advice.

Al was a bigger-than-life figure, always influential, often controversial.  He died Friday at his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, 89.

The corporate culture he created boldly, sometimes extravagantly, demanded curiosity about how media need to evolve, to remain relevant.

“The fact that there is more hunger for news and information and entertainment and advertising than ever before, everywhere in the world, creates greater opportunities if we’re smart enough to deliver it in the way that the consumer wants it…now, today…not how they wanted to get it 10 years ago or 20 years ago or even 2 or 3 years ago.”

Radio stations now “get” evolve-or-die. And some are LOTS better than others at publishing-beyond-the-transmitter. But that’s just plumbing.

Last week, Twitter seemed the medium of choice for many, and legacy media occasionally stumbled, disseminating misinformation as cable channels tripped over each other.  When radio parroted the very latest, it too had to backpedal.

In a fast-breaking story, misinformation happens.  Disinformation is a nail in talk radio’s coffin.

Last week — during the Boston crisis — my report in TALKERS and Radio-Info applauded how radio stepped-up…and I singled out a hurtful talk radio sideshow.

As the week wore on, others, including the format’s biggest voices, joined the conspiracy clown show, even as facts debunked what talk radio was asking listeners to believe.  I hope Al wasn’t listening.

Don’t wonder why Twitter is “the wire,” if we give people reason to trust each other more then they trust us.


See, hear, read more from consultant Holland Cooke at and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.  Meet Holland Cooke at Talkers New York 2013 on Thursday, June 6.

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Category: Opinions