September 29, 2012
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. (Courtesy Anthony Camerano/The Associated Press)

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. (Courtesy Anthony Camerano/The Associated Press)

Remembering Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

Former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger, who led “The Gray Lady” to numerous Pulitzer Prizes and guided the paper into the information age with new beats, new sections, more photographs and shorter, brighter stories, died Sept. 29, 2012, at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86.

Sulzberger was a young ex-Marine when he got his first newspaper job in 1952 as a Times cub reporter. In 1953, he worked at the Milwaukee Journal and a year later, at The Times’s foreign bureaus in Paris, London and Rome. Back in New York in 1955, he became assistant publisher and later assistant treasurer of The New York Times Company.

 In 1963 when he was 37, Sulzberger was named publisher after his brother-in-law, Orvil Dryfoos, died suddenly of a heart attack. Sulzberger said at the time that his first executive decision was “not to throw up.” He grew into the job, expanding departments and gradually turning The Times into a media conglomerate.

In 1971, a classified report about the controversial Vietnam War — the so-called Pentagon Papers — was leaked to the Times. When Sulzberger allowed editors to publish stories based on the papers, the U.S. government blocked further publication. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government had shown no justification to keep the Times from publishing the stories. The Times won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

“What became clear after reading them was that these were extraordinary documents proving deceit of the American people by their elected representatives,” Sulzberger said.  “I 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.”

Copies of the Pentagon Papers are located in the News Corporation News History Gallery. The Ochs-Sulzberger Family is a founding partner of the Newseum. The museum’s 90-foot-high atrium is called The New York Times–Ochs-Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News.

Sulzberger retired in 1992 at age 65 and was chairman of The New York Times Company until 1997. His son, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., succeeded him as publisher.

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