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Publisher who transformed The Times for new era

Source : BUSINESS_STANDARD
Last Updated: Sun, Sep 30, 2012 20:10 hrs

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper’s founding in 1851, died early Saturday at his home in Southampton, NY. He was 86. His death, after a long illness, was announced by his family.

Sulzberger’s tenure, as publisher of the newspaper and as chairman and chief executive of The New York Times Company, reached across 34 years, from the heyday of post-war America to the twilight of the 20th century, from the era of hot lead and Linotype machines to the birth of the digital world.

The paper he took over as publisher in 1963 was the paper it had been for decades: Respected and influential, often setting the national agenda. But it was also in precarious financial condition and somewhat insular, having been a tightly held family operation since 1896, when it was bought by his grandfather Adolph S Ochs.

By the 1990s, when Sulzberger passed the reins to his son, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, first as publisher in 1992 and then as chairman in 1997, the enterprise had been transformed. The Times was now national in scope, distributed from coast to coast, and it had become the heart of a diversified, multibillion-dollar media operation that came to encompass newspapers, magasines, television and radio stations and online ventures.

The expansion reflected Sulzberger’s belief that a news organisation, above all, had to be profitable if it hoped to maintain a vibrant, independent voice. As John F Akers, a retired chairman of IBM and for many years a Times Company board member, put it, “Making money so that you could continue to do good journalism was always a fundamental part of the thinking.”

On Saturday, President Obama praised Sulzberger as “a firm believer in the importance of a free and independent press, one that isn’t afraid to seek the truth, hold those in power accountable and tell the stories that need to be told.”

Sulzberger’s insistence on independence was shown in his decision in 1971 to publish a secret government history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers.

It was a defining moment for him and, in the view of many journalists and historians, his finest.

In thousands of pages, this highly classified archive detailed Washington’s legacy of deceit and evasion as it stumbled through an unpopular war. When the Pentagon Papers were divulged in a series of articles in June 1971, an embarrassed Nixon administration demanded that the series be stopped immediately, citing national security considerations. The Times refused, on First Amendment grounds, and won its case in the United States Supreme Court in a landmark ruling on press freedom.

Sulzberger reshaped The Times. In the mid-1970s, another financially difficult period in which he might have chosen to retrench, he expanded the paper to four sections from two, creating separate sections for metropolitan and business news and introducing new ones oriented toward consumers.

They were a gamble, begun in the hope of attracting new readers, especially women, and advertisers.

Some critics dismissed the feature sections as unworthy of a serious newspaper. But the sections — SportsMonday, Science Times, Living, Home and Weekend — were an instant success, without compromising the paper’s hard-news core. They were widely imitated.

Over the next two decades, a billion-dollar investment in new printing facilities made still more innovations possible, among them a national edition, special regional editions and the daily use of color photos and graphics.

“Adolph Ochs is remembered as the one who founded this great enterprise,” Richard L Gelb, a longtime member of the Times board, said in 1997, when Sulzberger stepped down as chairman. “Arthur Ochs Sulzberger will be remembered as the one who secured it, renewed it and lifted it to ever-higher levels of achievement.”

Even while the enterprise was put on a secure financial footing, ultimate control never passed from the Sulzberger family. It managed to avoid the internal strife and jealousies that tore apart other newspaper dynasties and traumatised their companies.

At Sulzberger’s death, The Times was being run by a fourth generation of his family, a rarity in an age when the management of most American newspapers is determined by distant corporate boards. A family trust, unaffected by his death, guarantees continued control by Adolph Ochs’s descendants.

It was no coincidence, Sulzberger believed, that some of the country’s finest newspapers were family-owned. “My conclusion is simple,” he once said with characteristic humor. “Nepotism works.”

A newspaper publisher may be a business executive, but the head of an institution like The Times is also inevitably cast as a leader in legal defenses of the First Amendment. It was a role Sulzberger embraced, never with more enduring results than in his decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.

“This was not a breach of the national security,” Sulzberger said at the time. “We gave away no national secrets. We didn’t jeopardise any American soldiers or Marines overseas.” Of the government, he added, “It’s a wonderful way if you’ve got egg on your face to prevent anybody from knowing it, stamp it secret and put it away.”

The government obtained a temporary restraining order from a federal judge in Manhattan. It was the first time in United States history that a court, on national security grounds, had stopped a newspaper in advance from publishing a specific article. The Washington Post soon began running its own articles based on the same documents, and both papers took their case to the Supreme Court. In late June, the court issued its decision rejecting the administration’s national-security arguments and upholding a newspaper’s right to publish in the face of efforts to impose “prior restraint.”

The significance of that ruling for the future of government-press relations has been debated, but this much was certain: It established the primacy of a free press in the face of a government’s insistence on secrecy. In the 40 years since the court handed down its ruling, there has not been another instance of officially sanctioned prior restraint to keep an American newspaper from printing secret information on national security grounds.

In a 1996 speech to a group of journalists, Sulzberger said of the documents that he “had no doubt but that the American people had a right to read them and that we at The Times had an obligation to publish them.” But typically — he had an unpretentious manner and could not resist a good joke or, for that matter, a bad pun — he tried to keep even a matter this weighty from becoming too ponderous.

The fact is, Sulzberger said, the documents were tough sledding. “Until I read the Pentagon Papers,” he said, “I did not know that it was possible to read and sleep at the same time.”

Nor did he understand why President Richard M Nixon had fought so hard “to squelch these papers,” he added.

“I would have thought that he would bemoan their publication, joyfully blame the mess on Lyndon Johnson and move on to Watergate,” Sulzberger said. “But then I never understood Washington.”

He did, however, understand the stakes in publishing the Pentagon Papers, he said in 1998. He was risking heavy fines and a sullied reputation for the newspaper, and perhaps even jail for him and his top editors. No editor could solely make a decision of that magnitude, Sulzberger said. The buck stopped with the publisher.

But more commonly, indeed nearly all the time, Sulzberger left the task of putting out The Times to the people hired for the job: The managers on the business side and the editors in the newsroom.

“His confidence in the people he chose to trust was almost total,” said Max Frankel, one of five executive editors during Sulzberger’s time as chairman. “He did not want to edit the paper, plain and simple. He was there to adjudicate disputes and to set standards and values.”

Most afternoons he attended the meeting at which the editors determined what would be on the next day’s front page. But he was there mainly to keep himself informed, not to join the discussion. He generally kept his hands off the editorial page, too. Except perhaps for the most hotly disputed issues and political endorsements, he often did not learn of the page’s opinions until the paper was delivered to his Manhattan home, an apartment on Fifth Avenue.

There were, to be sure, departures from this self-imposed restraint.

A notable one came in 1976, when Sulzberger insisted that The Times endorse Daniel Patrick Moynihan over Bella S Abzug in the New York Democratic primary election for United States senator. This brought strong objections from John B Oakes, who was editor of the editorial page and the publisher’s first cousin once removed. Oakes received permission to register his disapproval in a most unusual fashion. He wrote a 40-word letter to the editor — in effect, a letter to himself.

Long after his retirement, the episode continued to rankle Oakes. But he acknowledged that such intervention from the 14th floor — where the publisher had his office in the Times building on West 43rd Street — was rare.

Sulzberger did not always appreciate the content or the tenor of the editorial page. He thought it was anti-business, especially in the 1960s and ’70s. “If you were a corporation, you were wrong, whatever you were doing,” he said. But he almost never imposed his views. Though he did nudge Oakes into retirement a year or two early, Oakes said, “I literally can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I had to go to bat for an editorial.” Oakes died in 2001.

When Sulzberger wanted to exercise his prerogative and make his likes and dislikes known, he usually did so through interoffice memorandums, signing them with the nickname he had carried since childhood, Punch.

The topics might be of national importance, like the structure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military being a subject he cared about as a former Marine who had served in World War II and the Korean War. When he felt the boundaries of good taste had been crossed, he let the editors know it. But the notes could also be about mundane matters. In one, in 1976, he complained to A M Rosenthal, the executive editor, about a published recipe for cooked eel.

“Why can’t our food pages have something on them that most people like?” Sulzberger asked.

Quality-of-life issues in New York were dear to him. He never pretended to have a solution for America’s balance-of-payments problems, but he had ideas about crime and grime in his hometown. In 1989, they led to a series of editorials that ran under the rubric “New Calcutta.”

Once in a while he wrote brief letters to the editor using the name A Sock, a wordplay on Punch. Sock was always as pleased as punch with puns. “The nationalist Chinese seem extremely apprehensive when Nixon drinks with Premier Chou,” he wrote in 1972. “Are they scared he’ll Taiwan on?”

One A Sock letter, an unflattering take in 1979 on the National Organization for Women, brought a sharp rebuttal letter. “Sock deserves a punch,” it concluded. It was signed Gail Gregg, the publisher’s daughter-in-law at the time. Convinced his cover was blown, Sulzberger wrote almost no A Sock letters again.

His suggestions to editors and his criticisms tended to be delivered in a velvet glove, not with a mailed fist. “He didn’t have to be obeyed; he just wanted to be heard,” said Jack Rosenthal, a former editor of the editorial page. Arthur Gelb, a former managing editor, put it this way: “He never said forcefully, ‘This is what I believe and this is what I want.’ It was always mild and often with a little humor. He listened to what others had to say. Some people saw that as weakness. But it was the nature of a true gentleman.”

Sulzberger involved himself far less with the content of the news columns than with the large business decisions that had to be made. It had been that way from the moment he was named publisher, on June 20, 1963, succeeding his brother-in-law Orvil E Dryfoos, who had died of heart trouble a month earlier at age 50.

The line of Times publishers, from Adolph Ochs in 1896 to Arthur Sulzberger Jr a century later, has run through the men in the family.

Ochs had a daughter, Iphigene, but no sons. When he died in 1935, authority passed to Iphigene Ochs’s husband, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. Iphigene and Arthur had three daughters: Marian, Ruth and Judith, called Judy.

Then came a son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, born on February 5, 1926. The father enjoyed composing light verse, and he celebrated this birth with an illustrated book describing the boy as having “come to play the Punch to Judy’s endless show.” The nickname stuck.

In 1961, his health deteriorating, the elder Sulzberger considered it time to step aside. His son was not even considered as a possible successor — not then, anyway. Many Times executives and close relatives felt Arthur was too young and not up to the challenge. The family turned to Dryfoos, who was married to the oldest Sulzberger daughter, Marian, and who had been a senior Times executive for years.

But a mere two years into the job, Dryfoos was dead, and the family looked to the young Sulzberger. At 37, he became the youngest publisher in Times history.

His mother, the paper’s guiding spirit until her death at 97 in 1990, wrote in her memoir, Iphigene, that tapping her son amounted to “something of a gamble.” Until then he had held only lower-level company positions. In one, assistant treasurer, he had been given little to do except sign payroll checks.

“It’s impossible to be an assistant to your father,” he said years later.

Sulzberger himself — square-shouldered, pipe-smoking, affable, unaffected — knew how lightly he was regarded. “I’ve made my first executive decision,” he told his sister Ruth after his first day on the job. “I’ve decided not to throw up.”

It did not take him long to prove the doubters wrong. “It was remarkable how quickly Punch began to demonstrate initiative and decisiveness,” his mother wrote. Years later, A M Rosenthal would call Sulzberger “the most insufficiently estimated publisher in modern American journalism.”

It would have been hard to dispute that The Times was America’s premier paper in 1963. Its influence on national politics was even greater than it is in today’s information-saturated age of round-the-clock cable news, social media and the Internet.

But the paper in 1963 was also a struggling operation with an uncertain future. It was reeling from low revenues and high labour costs. It had just emerged from a 114-day printers’ strike, which had put a tremendous strain on Dryfoos.

The long walkout, over wages, automation and other issues, was also devastating to the once-boisterous world of New York newspapers. When the strike began in 1962, there were seven major dailies in the city, all of them already threatened by competition from television and burdened with high costs and low income. Within five years the field had shrunk to three: The Times, The Daily News and The New York Post.

The Times, a morning paper, toyed with the idea of creating an afternoon daily to go head-to-head with the afternoon Post. In 1967 it went so far as to create prototypes for two possible papers. But in the end it dropped the project, deciding it would be too much of a drain on the company’s resources.

At The Times, 1963 was the first year it had lost money since 1898. But even in good years, profits were precariously small. It hardly helped that the paper was based in a city that was in economic decline and unable to stop the flight of many affluent New Yorkers — newspaper readers and advertisers included — to the suburbs.

“I personally never had the concern that the paper was going to go out of business,” Sulzberger later recalled. “But it was obvious to me that we had a problem on the business side, the problem being structural: The way we worked together or, more accurately, the way we didn’t work together.”

Sulzberger moved swiftly to bring financial order, and to show skeptics that he was in charge. Some of his early actions were the sort that any struggling businessman might take. But for The Times of that era, they bordered on revolutionary. Sulzberger insisted that the news department operate on a budget — unheard-of at the time. He strived to reduce the company’s payroll, then about 5,400 strong, a work force appreciably larger than today’s. He tried to get the advertising and circulation departments, each jealous of the other’s powers and privileges, to coordinate their efforts.

By nature, he was fastidiously neat. The habitual clutter on reporters’ desks drove him to distraction. And he felt no better about untidy organisational charts.

It made no sense to Sulzberger that the daily Times and the Sunday paper were separate and sometimes competing fiefs. In 1964 he ordered that they both report to a single executive editor, Turner Catledge, who had become something of a father figure to the new publisher.

The plan was not executed so easily. The Sunday department had been run for 40 years by the brilliant but imperious Lester Markel, an editor who brooked no interference from anyone, including a young publisher, who still called him “Markel.” Sulzberger chose to spring the daily-Sunday merger without telling Markel. “Young men can be cruel, sometimes without knowing it,” Catledge concluded in a 1971 memoir.

The two branches of the paper did not truly merge for 12 more years, but the episode was considered an early sign that one underestimated Punch Sulzberger at one’s peril.

“Punch soon proved to be a more aggressive publisher than either Sulzberger or Dryfoos had been,” Catledge wrote. “Those two, having married into the newspaper, saw themselves as trustees, but Punch had a sense of proprietorship that they had lacked.”

He continued: “Adolph Ochs used to say, ‘I always question the obvious,’ and Punch was like his grandfather in that regard. He liked to ask questions and challenge assumptions.”

One assumption he challenged was that the paper would return to business as usual after the strike. “Our obvious trouble” at the end of the walkout “was that we had no muscle whatsoever,” Sulzberger recalled, “and that all our financial eggs were in one basket.”

In January 1964 he summarily closed The Times’s Western edition, a slender version of the newspaper that had been started only 15 months earlier under Dryfoos. Printed in Los Angeles and distributed in 13 Western states, the edition suffered from anemic advertising and plummeting circulation.

Sulzberger’s decision left scars in the newsroom, for it involved rare layoffs of staff members. Sulzberger later acknowledged the trauma. “It was the first time that we kind of threw in the sponge and said, ‘We can’t do it,’ ” he said. “That wasn’t the usual way we did things.”

But The Times did so again in 1967, when it folded its money-losing international edition, which was founded in 1949 and based in Paris. In a merger with the Paris edition of the recently closed New York Herald Tribune, a new entity was formed, The International Herald Tribune. It is now owned solely by The Times after a long partnership with The Washington Post Company.

The Times Company in 1963 consisted of the newspaper, the New York radio stations WQXR-AM and FM, and a share of the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company in Ontario. Sulzberger concluded that The Times needed new ventures to generate profits that could insulate it from future strikes, crises in the New York economy or declines in retail advertising as department stores failed. But expansion required cash, lots of it, far more than could be raised by a small, fusty company with marginal profits at best. “We were privately held,” Sulzberger said. “Once a year, at the annual meeting of the board, the salaries were passed around on a single sheet of paper. But it wasn’t proper to look.”

All that changed in 1969, when millions of Times shares began to be traded on the American Stock Exchange. (Since 1997 they have been traded on the New York Stock Exchange.) That opened the newspaper to outside investors, as well as to outside scrutiny.

Significantly, the shares put into play in 1969, Class A shares, were kept separate from a Class B category of stock that controlled the company. Holders of those strategic B shares elected 70 per cent of the company’s directors. And nearly all the B stock — more than 87 per cent when Sulzberger stepped down in 1997, and 91 per cent today — was held by a family trust established by Adolph Ochs and passed on to his heirs. (Family members also own Class A shares, bringing their total holdings to 15 per cent.)

The terms of the trust were revised from time to time, most recently in 1997. But its purpose was unvarying: To ensure that control of The Times would remain with Ochs descendants deep into the 21st century unless they agreed that the only way to save the paper was to sell it.

The importance of keeping the family in charge cannot be overstated, said Walter E Mattson, a former Times Company president. “The commitment to the quality of the paper and the correctness of the paper — the willingness to suffer the criticism of Wall Street, for example — is best dealt with by a member of the family,” he said.

With money in hand from the public sale of Class A stock, The Times began looking for properties to buy.

It made its first major purchases in 1971, from Cowles Communications. For $52 million in Times stock and the assumption of $15 million in Cowles debt, The Times acquired Family Circle magazine, a group of medical magazines, three Florida newspapers, a textbook publishing house and a Memphis television station. Those businesses are no longer in The Times’s hands, but they were the foundation for a future diversified company.

In October 1997, when Sulzberger passed on the chairmanship to his son and assumed the title of chairman emeritus, the company included 21 regional newspapers, 9 magazines focused on golf and other outdoor pastimes, 8 television stations, 2 radio stations, a news service, a features syndicate and The Boston Globe, which was bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion, a record price for a newspaper, paid largely in Times Company stock.

The Times Company’s holdings have varied since then and today they are principally confined to The Globe, The International Herald Tribune and its flagship paper.

Not every acquisition under Sulzberger was a success. Nor did investors applaud every move. Times stock was often an underachiever on Wall Street, as it was in the first years after The Globe was bought. Many thought the company had paid too much for the paper. Sulzberger disagreed. “It was a business that we understood,” he said. “We know how to run newspapers.”

That philosophy — focus on what you do well — guided his business decisions. Ignoring it would only land the company in trouble, he believed. The Times got into the book business in the 1970s, then got out when it realised it could not apply to books the same rigorous standards of accuracy that it insisted on for its own newspaper. (The Times Books imprint was licensed to Random House for many years. It returned to The Times in 2000 in partnership with Henry Holt & Company.)

A big mistake, Sulzberger said, was Us magazine, a weekly The Times started in the 1970s, patterned on People magazine but without its verve or circulation.

“That’s when I came up with a cardinal rule,” he said. “Never acquire a company that you’re embarrassed to tell your mother about. Or start a publication, in this case. It really isn’t our line of work, and we weren’t very good at it.”

Us Weekly was sold within three years and is now published by Wenner Media.

The Times Company Sulzberger passed along in 1997 was light years from the one he had inherited. Revenue in 1963 was $101 million, with The Times newspaper accounting for almost all of it. By 1997, the total was $2.6 billion, with the newspaper accounting for about half. In 2011, The New York Times Media Group, made up of The Times, The International Herald Tribune and their Web sites, accounted for 66 per cent of the Times Company’s total revenues of $2.4 billion.

The Times eventually had less reason to worry about the sort of labour strife that plagued New York papers through the 1960s and ’70s. Its newfound strength was shown when it bounced back quickly from an 88-day press worker’s strike in 1978, the last time it endured a significant walkout.

In Sulzberger’s early years as publisher, his attitude toward the dozen or so newspaper unions in New York ranged from annoyance to hostility. More than a few workers considered him less than generous when it came to salaries and health benefits.

He was also challenged on other grounds. In the 1970s, the company was hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing the paper of practicing systematic discrimination against women in hiring, promotions and pay. The Times reluctantly settled the suit in 1978 by agreeing to pay $350,000 in back wages and lawyers’ fees and committing itself to an affirmative-action program for women in both the news and business departments.

In later years, labour relations at the paper became far more conciliatory. Long-term no-strike contracts were signed, offering productivity incentives for some employees, like press workers. But the 1960s and ’70s were a confrontational era.

The Times, like newspapers across the country, had embraced automated typesetting and high-speed printing operations as a way to shrink the work force and cut costs. Sulzberger believed that New York’s powerful craft unions, seeking to protect jobs and maintain their memberships, stood in the way of the new money-saving technologies.

The problem went beyond the strikes called every few years. His paper, he felt, was bleeding from a thousand cuts in the form of repeated slowdowns, whether by typesetters, press workers or truck drivers.

Still, Sulzberger did not confront the unions head-on until the 1970s. A turning point came in 1974, when The Times and The Daily News reached an agreement with Local 6 of the International Typographical Union, the same printers’ union that had struck in 1963.

In return for substantial bonuses and guarantees of lifetime employment, “Big Six” agreed, finally, to let the newspapers bring computers and electronic typesetting into composing rooms, which were still being run much as they had been for 90 years, with clanking machines that cast type in hot lead, one line at a time. The old composing room — big, burly, noisy and, yes, romantic — would disappear in a few years, followed over the next 20 years, through attrition, by some 800 jobs.

While it was a breakthrough, the agreement did not improve the paper’s finances right away. Circulation and advertising were stagnant, and so were profits. A national recession in 1975 hit New York especially hard, and the city teetered toward bankruptcy. For The Times, the solution was to make striking changes in both its content and appearance.

One move, in 1976, was to adopt a six-column format, replacing the denser eight-column configuration that the paper had used since 1913. This put The Times in line with other newspapers that were standardising their formats as a convenience to many advertisers.

The same year, the daily paper expanded to four sections from two, adding stand-alone business and metropolitan news reports and a daily mini-magazine devoted to consumer-oriented subjects. The paper also introduced four Sunday regional sections in 1976, aiming them at New York’s affluent suburbs.

These innovations were followed in 1980 by a new national edition, which Sulzberger began with some trepidation, remembering the Western edition’s failure two decades earlier. But it had become less costly to print a version of the newspaper at satellite plants around the country than to distribute copies of the New York edition nationally by airplane. The national edition gained circulation steadily and eventually drew its own advertising. It now accounts for more than half of the print newspaper’s 779,731 daily readership.

Photos and graphics began appearing in color in Sunday sections in 1993. A Times Web site was introduced in 1996. The next year, special editions for New England and the Washington area were started. And despite some head-shaking on Wall Street, the paper invested nearly $1 billion in new printing plants in Edison, NJ, and College Point, Queens. (The Edison plant was later sold.) In September 1997, the daily Times began to be printed in color, its news report now spread across as many as six sections.

When these changes started in the mid-1970s, there was no mystery to them. Mattson, who was general manager at the time, saw the consumer-oriented sections as a way to lure new advertisers and readers. It was up to the newsroom, under Rosenthal, to figure out how to create the sections with taste and intelligence so that they offered more than tips on how to get chocolate stains out of the carpet.

The Weekend section on Friday came first, in April 1976. It was followed by Living on Wednesday, Home on Thursday and SportsMonday.

What to do with Tuesday became an issue. It turned into a tug of war. The business staff wanted a fashion section, seeing it as a sure way to bring in advertising. The newsroom preferred a science section, seeing it as more in tune with The Times’s traditional mandate.

As arbiter, Sulzberger sided with the news department.

His decision paid an unforeseen dividend when the new Tuesday section, Science Times, began generating advertising, thanks to the advent of the personal computer.

Science Times was the publisher’s way of reinforcing a conviction that the editors, not the business staff, ultimately determined what went into The New York Times.

There would be skirmishes over containing costs, as when advertising declined after Wall Street’s Black Monday in October 1987 and belts were tightened.

But The Times continued to pour money into news gathering when many American papers were pulling back.

“Punch was a very staunch advocate for the editor; it wasn’t even a close call,” Arthur Gelb said in 1998. Mattson said, “There was never an issue as to the business people involving themselves in the news side of the newspaper.”

Living, Home and the other feature sections did not draw unanimous raves, however. The main complaint was that the sections were unbefitting the serious-minded newspaper that had published the Pentagon Papers and pioneered formats like the Op-Ed page, created in 1970 as a forum for outside voices.

“Did you hear about the latest Times section?” one joke went. “They’re calling it News.”

But the skeptics were soon silenced. Not only were the sections imitated; they also brought The Times tens of thousands of new readers.

Sulzberger was not inclined to apologise for turning a profit.

“A financially sound Times is good for our readers, our advertisers, our shareholders and our employees,” he wrote to The Wall Street Journal, responding to criticisms there, in 1978. “A financially sound Times also is good newspapering. A newspaper that is broke is not going to be able to spend the money necessary to support thorough and aggressive reporting.”

As the years passed, Sulzberger turned his attention toward handing over leadership to the next generation. In 1992, his son, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, took over as Times publisher. The question then became whether the younger Sulzberger would also inherit his father’s corporate titles. Some board members wanted to see someone from outside the family assume those posts.

In 1997, Sulzberger rallied family members around his son as chairman. But his sisters, he later said, wanted roles for their own branches of the family. “So we came up with compromises and things that worked wonderfully well for the organisation,” he said. Arthur Sulzberger Jr was made chairman. A cousin, Michael Golden, was named senior vice president and vice chairman. The chief executive was from outside the family, Russell T Lewis.

Once again, the Times family had avoided the kind of internal strife that had battered newspaper clans like the Binghams of Kentucky and the Chandlers of Los Angeles.

The family sense of duty was strong. It was captured in a eulogy that Susan W Dryfoos, Orvil Dryfoos’s daughter and the director of the Times History Project, delivered in February 1990 for her grandmother, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger.

“We, your family, understand


© 2012 The New York Times News Service




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