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Ron Martin, USA TODAY’s first executive editor who was known for his ‘voice of reason,’ dead at 84

Ron Martin, USA TODAY’s first executive editor who was known for his ‘voice of reason,’ dead at 84


Ron Martin, USA TODAY’s first govt editor and lauded as a consummate newspaperman who helped set the paper’s tone, died Saturday. He was 84.

Initially from Joplin, Missouri, Martin started his journalism profession at small papers after graduating from the Univerity of Missouri. He labored at a collection of more and more bigger papers together with a number of owned by Gannett, the newspaper chain that might launch USA TODAY in 1982.

Previous to coming to USA TODAY, Martin labored on the employees of the Detroit Free Press, the Baltimore Information-American and as managing editor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle within the New York and the Miami Herald. 

When he left USA TODAY in 1989, Martin went to Atlanta the place he helped oversee the merger of the town’s two newspapers into the Atlanta Journal-Structure, according to the paper. He’s credited with bringing the Journal-Structure into the web age and giving it a shorter, newsier fashion. 

His daughter, Jen Martin, informed the Journal-Constitution her father was a voracious reader who learn as many as eight newspapers a day and infrequently a e-book a day as nicely.

Martin was additionally recognized for working to make newsrooms seem like the face of America at a time when that wasn’t an emphasis within the information business.

“Whereas others would not ‘take an opportunity’ on girls or folks of coloration, Ron noticed it as a chance,” mentioned Julia Wallace, a USA TODAY reporter beneath Martin and later editor-in-chief of the Journal-Structure.

“There are such a lot of girls and other people of coloration in information at the moment due to him,” mentioned Wallace, now chair of the Walter Cronkite College of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State College in Phoenix.

Martin was additionally somebody who intuited what expertise would imply for journalism and pushed exhausting for the Journal-Structure to be prepared, already focusing his consideration within the mid-Nineteen Nineties on creating digital merchandise and audiences.

“He understood the way in which folks consumed information was altering and used the readers-first mentality he honed at USA TODAY to rework these ideas for a digital world,” she mentioned.

Martin’s seven years at USA TODAY helped set the paper’s tone, starting on its first day of publication when he made a quintessentially USA TODAY editorial choice.

A airplane had crashed in Spain on Monday and the paper had bought arresting pictures of the scene taken by a passenger from Minnesota. This was to run on the entrance web page within the heart column and editors struggled to write down a headline for a narrative that might be two days previous when the newspaper’s first version got here out on Wednesday.

The preliminary headline learn “55 die in fiery crash.”

Martin took a glance and informed the editors, “That’s not the story; it’s what number of lived,” in accordance with the e-book “The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA TODAY” by Peter Prichard.

They labored up a brand new headline that ran within the paper’s first version on Sept. 15, 1982 – “Miracle: 327 survive, 55 die.”

Martin’s reward was to be deeply engaged with each the ephemera of the day and the vital information readers wanted to know, mentioned those that labored with him.

“He was wide-ranging,” mentioned David Colton, a former managing editor of USA TODAY. “He was as focused on Elizabeth Taylor’s new fragrance as he was within the troubles within the Center East and he gave the identical consideration to every.”

When USA TODAY was first proposed, it was the primary newspaper to draw nationwide consideration since Newsday had been launched on Lengthy Island in 1940. It was meant to be totally different, utilizing coloration on each part entrance – a rarity on the time – and shorter, punchier tales.

In a paper stuffed with “keen younger editors from small and mid-sized papers,” Martin introduced a degree of great information judgment and stability from his years of modifying vital regional papers at a time after they reigned supreme, mentioned Colton. 

“The information conferences within the early days have been stuffed with ‘Why do not we do that?’ ‘Why cannot we try this?'” he mentioned.

“Ron was at all times a voice of motive and journalism,” Colton mentioned. “He was an old style newspaper individual in a disruptive type of atmosphere in journalism. It was an awesome mixture.”

Martin is survived by his spouse, son, daughter, stepdaughters and three grandchildren.

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