Arthur Gelb knows the newspaper business. He began working at The New York Times
in 1944 as a night copyboy; he retired 45 years later as the managing editor. In this absorbing memoir, he writes lovingly of the days when the sound of manual typewriters filled the air, spittoons were standard furniture, and two bookies worked the city room. Though much has changed, core elements of the paper's culture remain, particularly the intense competition which initially fueled his own curiosity and ambition. For instance, after being on the job for just a month, Gelb and two other copyboys started an in-house newsmagazine that allowed them to learn about the business and to interview everyone at the paper, from the publisher on down. He even used it to publicly request a promotion for himself. (It worked.) Gelb obviously loved working at the paper and his enthusiasm is apparent throughout, whether recalling the thrill of his first byline, describing how significant stories were covered, or discussing how they dealt with mistakes and errors in judgement. Loaded with anecdotes and fascinating gossip, his book is as much a history of second half of the twentieth century as it is a history of the Times
. He writes about the colorful characters on the staff, of the many editorial battles, and of the significant cultural changes that took place at the paper as well as the in the country. "Can you imagine what it was like for an editor to arrive at work each morning, to look up from his desk at a sea of the most talented reporters in the newspaper world?" he writes. After reading this book, you can. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
"To me, there was nothing as stimulating as a good story," declares Gelb in this enthralling memoir of his 45 years at the New York Times. Gelb, who began as a copyboy in 1944 and retired as managing editor in 1990, has a wealth of terrific stories. An airplane's crash into the Empire State Building in July 1945 marked his professional reporting debut. Vivid recollections of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate break-in and the 1970 investigation of New York City police corruption abound, and Gelb's recounting of these events illustrates how reporters investigate and present complex news stories under deadline pressure while striving for accuracy, fairness and good taste. Later, as drama critic and cultural editor, Gelb mingled with glamour and celebrity. A witty raconteur, he tells uproarious anecdotes about Tallulah Bankhead and Marilyn Monroe. Although there are plenty of amazing scoops and delicious gossip, Gelb devotes equally passionate attention to the evolution of the Times as a workplace. His portrait of the city room circa 1944, with 100 all white and virtually all male reporters, is a fascinating historical snapshot and becomes more telling as he describes its changes over the years. By 1972, the department included 425 reporters, but only 40 of them were women. As a paean to his colleagues and the organization where he spent his "happiest days," Gelb naturally emphasizes high points, but he's frank about internal politics, the paper's uncharacteristic timidity in covering the Holocaust and its continuing struggle to diversify its staff. Addressing this year's Jayson Blair affair and the subsequent management changes at the paper, Gelb helps put those issues into a broader context with his balanced and sympathetic overview.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.