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.
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.