Richard Curtis, photography and graphics editor TODAY, dies

By David Colton and J. Ford Huffman

From left: New York Photo Editor Stanley Kayne, USA TODAY Director of Photography Mitch Koppelman, Director of Editorial/Graphic & Imaging Richard Curtis, Editor John C. Quinn and Assistant Director of Photography Jackie Greene on the eve of the first edition, September 14, 1982, of USA TODAY.  They are looking at the color key for the front page.

Richard Curtis, one of the original designers of USA TODAY’s look, including the bold use of color photography and graphics that revolutionized journalism in the 1980s, has died today. Sunday. He is 75 years old.

Curtis died quietly in his hometown of cancer, surrounded by his wife, Jane and family.

Curtis has been the managing editor of USA TODAY’s graphics and photography division for 27 years, always saying his goal is to be “different” in a crowded and emerging media world.

“You can see a US TODAY page anywhere, anytime, and it’s like an American TODAY page whether it has the newspaper’s name on it or not,” Curtis said spontaneously. boast in 2007. “You can’t say that about the Newspapers.”

As part of the editorial team Gannett founded USA TODAY in 1982, Curtis helped oversee an unprecedented reliance on full-page graphics and small sizes to deliver news and information. He was a tireless advocate for visual storytelling, convincing editors and skeptical reporters that more readers scanned graphics and read photo captions than sometimes read the story itself.

“Today’s readers – especially the younger generation – see narrative as the addendum and visual journalism at its core,” argues Curtis, warning at the same time that the power of visual journalism is at its core. “it is the narrative that follows it.”

Richard Curtis, executive editor of the Design Department at USA TODAY, in December 2008.

That intuitive approach, which many say was an influential factor in later online news, has been widely copied by others.

“It’s amazing how many colored weather pages appeared in the newspapers in late 1982 and 83 respectively, isn’t it?” Curtis joked during a Poynter Institute interview with George Rorick, who helped design USA TODAY’s groundbreaking Full-Page Weather Map.

“It was just the most groundbreaking thing about USA TODAY,” says Curtis. “I remember one of the initial surveys we did about the article and the Weather Page became the ‘second most viewed page’ after Page 1.”

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