A Writer's Paper

Sam Roberts reports in this morning’s New York Times that come this fall the International Herald Tribune will be re-branded as the International New York Times. This is the last stage in a long and inevitable transformation. The IHT, as it is known, has been partly or wholly owned by the Times since 1967. News of the end of the Herald Tribune name brought back many boyhood memories to me, and nostalgia for my early love of journalism.

The Christiansens were a Trib family. In the 1950s neighbors were known by the papers they read, and we read the New York Herald Tribune, well at least on Sundays. Weekdays it was the local Staten Island Advance, the local broadsheet, now the eponymous paper of the S. I. Newhouse’s Advance newspaper chain. One reason we took the Trib was it was a literate paper and my mother was an inveterate reader, who from third grade taught me to make bi-weekly trips to the New York Public Library—a mile and a half away on foot.

Another reason, I suspect, was that it was a Republican paper, though of the eastern, liberal, Republican strain of John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller. Mom’s side of the family was Italian, and family lore was that in New York Italian Americans voted Republican, because at the turn of the century, the Irish, who controlled Tammany Hall, didn’t welcome Italians into the Democratic Party. Liberal or moderate Italian Republicans were common throughout the northeast in those days—in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Family practice was to vote Republican in city matter, but Democratic in state and national affairs.

It didn’t matter that the boss of Tammany Hall by that time was named Carmine DiSapio and the first New York City mayor I can remember was Vincent Impelliteri (1950-53). Theodore Roosevelt had been president when my Grandfather Caccese arrived at Ellis Island, and all his life he thought TR was the best president America had ever had.  

When I was a high school sophomore, the Brothers encouraged us to take a daily paper, and I turned up my nose at the Times to take the Tribune. After John Hay “Jock” Whitney became owner of the Trib in 1958, he undertook extensive changes, confirming the wisdom of my choice. He gave the paper a bold, clean look, with new typefaces, striking white space and photos that “bled” over the standard margins. It consciously aimed at pleasing the eye. When I took over as editor of our school paper, the Eagle, in 1961, we tried to adapt the Trib’s layout techniques to our small 8X11 format. Whitney also hired a stable of smart, mostly young, writers, like Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and Red Smith, who wrote with a personal voice and with new narrative styles.

In 1966, when I was locked away in the seminary, Whitney brought in the Times and the Washington Post as partners. In 2002, the Times became sole owner. Reflecting on why the Herald Tribune failed, Richard Kluger wrote in his history of the Trib, The Paper, Roberts notes, “The Trib was arguably a better paper than the Times in the sense of being better edited, better written, graphically more pleasing.” But it lacked “the depth” of The Times which published “all the news fit to print.” “It was last place in the morning and couldn’t command the advertising. And it was a Republican paper, a Protestant paper, and more representative of the suburbs than of the ethnic mix of the city.”

The International Herald Tribune outlived its parent institution by nearly 50 years. The International New York Times will provide the same service, but, when American travelers and expatriates pick up the paper in Rome, Paris, London or Berlin the charisma and the memories will no longer be the same. Sic transit gloria mundi. Today I am a fan of the Times. No other news agency, except the BBC, does the kind of in-depth reporting and even lovely, quirky features, like Roberts’s story this morning. But, like a first love, the Trib still holds first place in my heart.



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ed gleason
5 years 10 months ago
" Liberal or moderate Italian Republicans were common throughout the northeast in those days—in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Family practice was to vote Republican in city matter, but Democratic in state and national affairs.: My Bronx blue collar Irish/Amer. father told me the reason (derogatory) Italians voted Repub,.to his great annoyance, was the GOP symbol on the ballot was an eagle and they thought it was a vote for more chickens. )-:
Raymond Schroth
5 years 10 months ago
It was a delight to read Drew's memories and his encyclopedia knowledge of of the International Herald Tribune, and I can't help wishing the Times had left the name alone and been satisfied with just owning it. My father was the editorial writer for the Trenton Times, but he also wrote for the Trib, and we got it in the house every day. It was certainly the best-written paper in the country, giving us Red Smith, Homer Bigart, Robert J. Donovan, Walter Lippmann, John Crosby, Walter Kerr, Art Buchwald, Tom Wolfe, JImmy Breslin, and New York Magazine, the founding vessel for the "new journalism" as a spin-off. Its second office was the old Artist and Writers' Restaurant at 213 West 40th Street, the ideal newspaperman's bar, where some of us hung out as Fordham students and later as writers. Around 1953 the Trib almost bought the Brooklyn Eagle, owned by my uncle Frank, but backed out. The Eagle died during a strike in 1955. Later, after I returned from the army and joined the Jesuits, in the late 1960s I wrote occasional book reviews for the Tribune's Book World, still published from in the old Trib building. Every time a newspaper dies I remember Humphrey Bogart's great line in "Deadline U.S.A.," the free press is like a free life — always in danger." Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.
David Smith
5 years 10 months ago
It's sad to see newspapers go under. They were pillars of communities, and valuable symbols of education and integrity.


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