Former Editor-in-Chief John C. Quinn and current Editor Ken Paulson will be the 20th and 21st individuals honored by the university and the Freedom Forum since the Neuharth Award program began in 1989. The award is named for USA TODAY and Freedom Forum founder Al Neuharth, a South Dakota native and 1950 graduate of USD.
This year's event will include recognition of the honorees and a discussion with Quinn and Paulson about USA TODAY and changes in the news media. The evening also will feature "Hits and Headlines," a live multimedia show and musical performance looking back at news headlines and popular music of the past 25 years.
The free event will begin at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11, in Slagle Auditorium on the USD campus. Doors will be open for ticket holders from 6 to 6:30 p.m.; general admission for any remaining seats will follow from 6:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Tickets (limit of two per request) are available in advance at the Al Neuharth Media Center or by specifying the quantity needed and sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Free Tickets, Al Neuharth Media Center, 555 Dakota St., Vermillion, SD 57069.
The program will be televised live and statewide from 7-9 p.m. on South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
"As USA TODAY celebrates its 25th anniversary, we salute two individuals who have played essential roles at critical times in the newspaper's history," Neuharth said. "John Quinn gave USA TODAY his enthusiastic support and superb news judgment not only at the newspaper's launch, but for several crucial, formative years. In 2004, one of USA TODAY's founding staff members, Ken Paulson, returned to the newspaper as editor, bringing his tremendous passion for great journalism and the First Amendment."
John C. Quinn spent nearly 50 years in the news business, including serving as the chief news executive for Gannett Co. when USA TODAY was launched, and as USA TODAY's editor from 1983 until 1988 and its editor-in-chief from 1988 until 1989. In Confessions of an S.O.B. (Doubleday, 1989), Al Neuharth described Quinn as "farseeing and foresighted, hungry but humane, passionate" and noted that Quinn became "the conscience of our company."
Ken Paulson is the editor/vice president of news of USA TODAY and USATODAY.com. For nearly three decades, Paulson has drawn on his background as both journalist and lawyer. He has been a reporter, bureau chief, managing editor, editor or executive editor of newspapers from Wisconsin to Florida and the executive director of the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.
Quinn started his news career as a copy boy at the Providence, RI, Journal-Bulletin in 1943 and retired as executive vice president/news and director of Gannett Co. in 1990.
He was with the Journal-Bulletin for 23 years, rising to day managing editor when he left in 1966 to join Gannett, where he held news executive roles for 24 years. His Gannett career included serving as chief news executive for Gannett when USA TODAY was launched in 1982 and as USA TODAY's editor from 1983 until 1988 and its editor-in-chief until 1989. In 1986, the National Press Foundation named Quinn Editor of the Year. In 1987, the University of Kansas gave Quinn the William Allen White National Citation Award. Quinn also was president of the Gannett News Service in 1980 when it won the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service.
After his retirement from Gannett, Quinn became deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum. In 1991, Quinn and his wife, Loie, established the Freedom Forum's Chips Quinn Scholars program in memory of their son John C. "Chips" Quinn Jr.