The prince and the paper

By IAN DONNIS  |  February 2, 2006

When it comes to succession, Jones says, “I think this new generation, the generation of Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, is being given a much more sort of orderly and structured opportunity than the family [previously] had in place. As I understand it, everyone in the family who wants to get a crack at a job in the company will get a chance. But the value system in the family is that you really have to earn it, and part of that is starting somewhere else and proving yourself somewhere else before you come to the New York Times.”

Jones believes that Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will ultimately be succeeded by one of his cousins, his son, or one of his son’s many cousins. “I think that the prospects of a member of the family being the chairman and publisher after Arthur Jr. are very great,” he says. “I think that is the tradition of the family. I think the family believes that it is in a position of stewardship that needs to be in family hands. At the same time, that is premised on the idea that there is someone worthy.”

Asked about young Sulzberger’s prospects for one day ascending to the publisher’s office, Auletta says, “My own sense is that it’s too early to burden the young reporter with the question of, ‘Are you going to succeed your father?’ It’s a remarkable family that way. It prides itself on its humility and it tries to instill that.”

In this respect — and in view of the larger questions facing the newspaper industry — Sulzberger’s time at the Providence Journal seems well placed. While being a good journalist requires a variety of skills, Auletta notes, “before you do all that, you have to have the ability to ask questions, and to listen to the answers, and that requires some degree of humility. If you take someone who could have easily been born with a silver spoon in his mouth ... and instead he goes to work at a small newspaper, out of town, it seems that he’s displaying some humility. His father did the same thing. I think that’s smart and also attractive. You don’t want your colleagues to think you’re some spoiled brat.”


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