Charles Kaiser Reflects on Changes at NYT

Buried in Amidst Charles Kaiser’s discussion of the New York Times event with David Boies and Theodore Olson is an interesting observation about how things have changed at the NYT for LGBT journalists.  Kaiser, a former NYT reporter and founding member of NLGJA’s New York chapter, has been outspoken about how the paper covered the LGBT community and treated gay and lesbian journalists during the reign of legendary editor Abe Rosenthal.

Kaiser is quoted as saying, “[e]veryone below Rosenthal spent all of their time trying to figure out what to do to cater to his prejudices. One of these widely perceived prejudices was Abe’s homophobia. So editors throughout the paper would keep stories concerning gays out of the paper.”

With that context, his observations here are telling and refreshing:

What was even more remarkable than the spectacle of a Reagan appointee making a full-throated defense of marriage equality was the atmosphere in which this confab took place.  Most of those present were gay and lesbian New Yorkers invited to the event.  But in the third row sat New York Times publisher and chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. , and six rows behind him was Andy Rosenthal, the editor of the Times editorial page.

Thirty years ago, their fathers, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger and Abe Rosenthal, were running this newspaper, and they shared such antipathy for homosexuals that gay employees of the newspaper believed that their careers depended on keeping their sexual orientations a secret.

But as the younger Sulzberger began his ascension through the paper’s corporate ranks, he did a  remarkable thing: he made it clear to every single person who worked for him that he would not tolerate an iota of prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Practically overnight, he transformed what had been a relentlessly homophobic place into one of the most gay-friendly institutions in the world.

And when Sulzberger went against his father’s wishes and started publishing same-sex wedding announcements in the newspaper in 2002, he did at least as much as any state legislature could to legitimize the idea of marriage equality.

Not at all coincidentally, Andy Rosenthal’s editorial page has published more brilliant editorials in defense of equal rights for gay people than any other editorial page in the world.

What a difference a new generation can make!

3 Responses

  1. An observation “buried” in my piece?
    Not exactly–it was half of my post!

    Charles Kaiser

  2. OK, maybe buried was the wrong word. I guess I saw the piece being mostly about Boies/Olsen and less about the NYT which is why I found the observation so interesting since it was unexpected.

  3. Charles nailed it (as he always does). I remember going to an NLGJA fundraiser at the Times building a few years ago. The Times brass — including Sulzberger Jr. — were genuinely glad to be there; to be lending their facility and prestige and presence to the event, and to having fun along with all the gay folks. It was a wonderful evening, and said volumes about the Times’ commitment to equality.

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