In a kind of airborne reportage reminiscent of Col. Robert McCormick's world tours as owner of the Chicago Tribune, Allen H. Neuharth has begun sending back the first reports from his "JetCapade." So far, the big news in the journalism community is Neuharth's byline.

Gannett Co. Chairman Neuharth, who started USA Today about five years ago and whose media empire includes 89 other daily newspapers, is now identified in his USA Today stories as "USA Today Founder."

After last year's tour of the continental United States, called the "BusCapade," Founder Neuharth launched his global tour last month promising to write about "the good and the bad and the glad and the sad." Lest that sound too editorial, the evidence indicates that he will address these various stories with a powerful sense of balance.

In the first full report this past weekend, from Mexico, Neuharth wrote a column that quoted farmworker Moises Hernandez as saying: "Our life is terrible here." Lupita Ballesteros counters: "I wouldn't live anywhere else."

Neuharth's picture, accompanying the column, features the Founder sitting at a typewriter beside an airplane window. Lest one accuse Neuharth of hiding his light inside his paper, the front page has a color shot of Neuharth with a drawing of the USA Today jet oddly nestled atop his silver hair.

If touring the globe was lonely for Magellan, it isn't for Neuharth. He has a staff of 25 "JetCateers," as he calls the journalists, stenographers, photographers and advance teams who are assisting with the tour. There are also two security guards and a doctor who is on the trip when the Founder is on the trip.

Neuharth, who turns 64 next month, is not sick, according to USA Today spokeswoman Sheila Gibbons. "On an extended tour like this, we decided it was just good insurance having a doctor along," she explained.

How long is this trip? Six months, Gibbons says. Or, as they say at USA Today: "Around the world in 180 days."

How is Neuharth's copy? USA Today insiders say that the chief architect of the four-paragraph story and the prime cheerleader for the "write-tight" credo of his newspaper turns in articles about five times as long as the space allowed.

Does he get more space than other writers for the paper? Sure, say those who know, but even the Founder has to live by his own rules. He gets rewritten, USA Today sources said, only more carefully.

Cal Thomas' NPR Tiff

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas is accusing National Public Radio of an "ideological hit." After two years of adding his right-wing views to the mix on "All Things Considered," Thomas was told by the program's new executive producer, Neal Conan, that he is "too predictable."

"How am I more predictable than Dan Schorr?" Thomas said last week. "He said I sounded too old-fashioned and stentorian. I'm only 45. What does 70-year-old Schorr sound like, a yuppie?"

On being read this comment, Schorr, who is 71, said after a long pause: "I wish to say in my most stentorian fashion: 'No comment.' "

Conan, who became executive producer in January, said he was evaluating commentators with an eye toward replacing at least two of the 10 or so regulars who give their views on the show. He did not want to name the other one, but he said, "You have to clear out the old people before you start hiring new ones."

Would any of the new ones have Thomas' particular slant on the news? "We are seriously thinking about at least two {conservatives}, maybe more," Conan said.

Jon Margolis' Ideal Beat

Jon Margolis, national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, is having a lot of trouble with his colleagues these days. Friends and longtime competitors on the campaign trail can't bear to hear about what Margolis will be doing after the election.

By political journalism standards, Margolis will have the perfect postelection job: roving essayist and sports columnist based in Chicago for the Trib.

"I think it's the best {job} I've ever heard," said John Mashek, Washington bureau chief for the Atlanta Constitution and a longtime friend of Margolis'. "But as a Redskin fan, he's really going to have to watch it."

"I don't think I'm bad, but I don't think I'm going to be Red Smith right off the bat," said Margolis, referring to the legendary columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times, who died several years ago.