In January 2005, the young reporter made a splash with a front-page account of a tabloid war in the upscale island redoubt of Jamestown, complete with a charge by one publisher (a divorced mother of three) that the other (a married man) was playing hardball with her because, she said, she had halted a 12-year relationship with him.
Six months later, a lead in another Sulzberger story from Jamestown was concise and to the point: “A three-week state police investigation has concluded that there is no evidence to support allegations that island firefighters have been illegally videotaping sexual encounters in the station.” When Rhode Island’s southern flank was found to be a national leader in marijuana use, the reporter flashed impish humor: “South County, where pristine beaches and million-dollar houses provide a scenic refuge from the hustle and bustle of the cities to the north, has a surprising secret. To quote a classic: Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea.”
“Most people don’t have a knack for journalism, they just don’t,” notes reporter Ged Carbone, who hosted Sulzberger for a Christmas dinner in 2004, when the young man’s family was vacationing in Mexico. “So when I first met him, I assumed he wouldn’t, and I assumed that he would also have a sense of privilege or entitlement. And I was wrong on both counts — because he does have a real knack for the business and he is humble, almost to a fault. At some point, he almost has to start asserting himself.”
Environmental reporter Peter Lord, who was working as the ProJo’s city editor at the time, recalls how Sulzberger walked to the downtown Providence office when his car got stuck near his East Side apartment during a January 2005 blizzard. “I was just really impressed that he would show up, sick and wet, and cheerfully help turn out two page-one stories, when a lot of people never made to the office that day,” Lord says.
Besides honing his journalistic chops, Sulzberger has dated Minnesota native Elizabeth Gudrais, a 2001 Harvard graduate whose moxie has fueled a steady rise at the Journal, which she joined in 2002 as a reporter-intern covering the northern Rhode Island town of Lincoln. The outgoing Gudrais, president of the Association of Young Journalists’ Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts chapter, was promoted in January to the paper’s three-person State House bureau. She keeps an eponymous Web site with a third-person biography and a copiously detailed résumé describing, among other things, how she compiles the ProJo’s weekly Political Scene column, “a juicy reader favorite.” Sulzberger, by contrast, has kept a low profile. One colleague, who doesn’t envy the young scribe’s place as the son of journalistic royalty, says, “For a scion of a family, he’s not a playboy driving a Ferrari around Newport.”
Bright lights, big city
At 25, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger remains similar to what his father and paternal grandfather were at this stage in the game — an indeterminate long-term executive quantity, albeit one with a good inside track to ultimately take over the New York Times.