The prince and the paper

By IAN DONNIS  |  February 2, 2006

In a move to shore up the ProJo’s staffing, he was among six reporter-interns whose jobs were made permanent when the intern program was suspended in January. He probably makes somewhere in the neighborhood of the $44,000 earned by a first-year Journal staff reporter.

Media critic Ben Bagdikian, who reported for the Providence Journal in the mid-20th century, recalls how some publishing families sent their heirs to the paper for seasoning, “because it was a place where people did a lot of shoe-leather reporting, covering municipal courts and municipal meetings, and having close supervision. It was considered a place where you would learn thorough reporting, because at that time, unlike the present, the Journal had 16 bureaus in the state of Rhode Island. We got neurotic if we missed a drunken-driving charge in Kingston.”

Despite years of cost-cutting measures, the Journal retains enough of its strong journalistic tradition to compare favorably with newspapers of similar size, and even some larger ones. So it should come as no surprise that the Brown graduate — whose father and paternal grandfather, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, cut their teeth at smaller papers away from New York — would alight there.

Reporter Tracy Breton, a member of the ProJo’s four-person investigative team, recommended Sulzberger for the paper after he impressed her as a student in the advanced feature-writing class she teaches at Brown. “He’s a very understated type of guy,” she says. “You wouldn’t know that he’s from the family that, you know, whose father is the publisher of the New York Times. He has this very nice way of talking with people and getting them to feel comfortable with him. He’s very curious about a lot of issues. He was hard-working as a student” — pursuing extra interviews for a pass-fail assignment, for example, when many of his peers were partying during senior week — “and I think he brings that into the work that he does at the paper.”

Sulzberger’s unease with the spotlight (he declined a request for an interview) leads some of his more experienced colleagues to adopt a protective stance toward him — to the point of questioning why he is newsworthy — before generally bubbling over with plaudits.

Breton says Sulzberger is a vegetarian and voracious reader who shares an apartment on Providence’s East Side. He hasn’t volunteered comment about his prospective future at the Times, she says, although he has expressed interest in residing in an unfamiliar part of the country one day. When she asked if he sends his Providence Journal clips to his father, “He said, ‘no,’” Breton says. “Apparently, his father has to get on the Internet.”

FIT TO PRINT Arthur Gregg Sulzberger's Brown University yearbook photo.So how's his work?
Sulzberger, who covers the southern seaside town of Narragansett, is seen as having skill as a descriptive storyteller and an appreciation of the intersection of local culture and the larger picture — long-time hallmarks of the Journal’s best reportage. He has also written nuanced take-outs of quintessential Rhode Island stories, including the diminishing local lobster catch, the tangled history of a pier-development project in Narragansett, and the clash between past and present in Galilee, the last self-sufficient fishing village in the state.

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