Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
By Jay Krall, class of 2003
A commanding journalistic voice, courage and a printing press.
That was a powerful combination for William Allen White. With those tools, he helped create a new professional standard in print journalism, says New York Times Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
Sulzberger, the 2003 recipient of the William Allen White Award, says those tools are what allowed White to write editorials that were thoughtful and well-crafted and led people to take action.
"Too often journalism is seen as just another form of entertainment," Sulzberger said. "When White decided to editorialize against a rapidly spreading Kansas-style populism and support the progressive movement, he did this with serious intent and purpose."
Accomplishing that was no easy task, but White did it "with a strong sense of purpose and a belief in the ability of individuals to make a difference," Sulzberger says. "With these tools and values, he helped to establish a new professional standard for journalism, and for more than fifty years, produced an independent news report full of intelligence, wit and passion that spoke to the real interests and concerns of his readers and his community."
As publisher of the Times, Speaking to readers' interests and concerns is Sulzberger's passion as well. In his nine years as publisher of The New York Times, the newspaper has won 18 Pulitzer Prizes. During his tenure, he has overseen the introduction of The City section to serve Manhattan readers and the introduction of color photos.
Sulzberger began his career at The Raleigh (N.C.) Times in 1974 and joined the Associated Press as a reporter in London in 1976. He joined The New York Times as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. He has also worked as a metro reporter, assistant metro desk editor, group advertising manager and corporate planning analyst. In 1988 he was named deputy publisher and he became publisher in 1992.
Sulzberger thinks the basic principles of good journalism are the same today as they were in White's time. The only difference, he says, is the rise of the Internet. Sulzberger created the NYT Electronic Media Company, now New York Times Digital, and NYTimes.com. White wasn't afraid of change and if he were alive today, he would be a leader in recognizing and utilizing the power the Internet offers journalists, Sulzberger says.
"The absolutely best journalists, whether they wrote in 1901 or 2001, have shared many of the same traits," he said. "They are thoughtful, tough, brave, full of life and wanting to be read. The biggest difference is the Internet. Now most print publications are accessible online. If he were alive in this era, William Allen White would undoubtedly have had loyal readers throughout the world closely following what he had to say."
As White's influence grew beyond Emporia, he continued to serve his readers with a strong voice, courage and a printing press, Sulzberger said.
"White's work, taken as a whole, is an impressive testament to the fundamental proposition that journalism matters and that well-crafted analysis and thoughtful opinion can and should have an effect on the course of human events," Sulzberger said.