Retired Hollywood correspondent Bernie Weinraub has a moving tribute to his late boss, Abe Rosenthal, over at The Huffington Post. Bernie started at The New York Times as a copy boy in 1964, so he knew an Abe few NYTers did. I’m hearing there will be a private seating area, and private get-togethers, on Sunday for those who knew Abe best. Here’s how Bernie’s piece starts out: “If Abe Rosenthal was executive editor of the New York Times today, he probably would not last very long. He was too big, too operatic, too brilliant, too impatient. Abe would loathe too many people: smug young self-entitled reporters, bloggers who hate The New York Times, Times‘ executives demanding budget restraints. He would lose his temper. He was not a cool man. I adored Abe Rosenthal. He plucked me out of the last rows of the city room — in the Times‘s unsubtle caste system the last rows were reserved for very young reporters and forgotten older reporters — and gave me choice assigments and set me on my way. I was one of ‘Abe’s boys.’ And, as boys, we saw him as a father, a scary one.”
Most interestingly, Bernie credits Rosenthal with breaking up the Southern White WASPy boy’s club inside the paper’s Washington DC bureau. “What the obituaries didn’t say was how Abe revolutionized the Times from within. There was an unpoken (or perhaps even spoken) system based on class and religion. New York was for the Jews, Irish, and Italians. Washington was off-limits to the New York crowd. Abe detested the Washington Bureau. Not simply because it was a separate fiefdom under James Reston that he could not control. It was, for him, the worst of the Times. Smug, Ivy League, self-important, with an unspoken contempt for the reporters and editors in New York. I’m overstating it a bit. But not by much. The bureau had few women, few Jews and perhaps a black reporter. It was crammed with Southerners (Tom Wicker, Russell Baker, etc.), and Ivy Leaguers. I once heard Reston say about a reporter, “Good man, Harvard man.” When the Washington Post badly beat the Times in its Watergate coverage, Rosenthal ultimately used the debacle to break up the bureau. Some reporters and editors never forgave him for it.”
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