Scope and arrangement
This collection documents the daily operations of the Metropolitan Desk, which was responsible for reporting on the New York City region. The bulk of the collection consists of internal correspondence and memoranda from city editors to various staff members in which they critiqued specific stories, commented on the overall performance of the department, discussed the handling of news reporting, and disseminated editorial and style policies. Taken together, these notes reveal the Metropolitan Desk's process of gathering news. Also present are communications between the Metropolitan Desk and high ranking editors at The Times, such as Turner Catledge and E. Clifton Daniel. Notably, these contain discussions of conflicts between the National and Metropolitan Desks on ambiguous distinctions between national and regional news. Correspondence to and from the following editors is filed in their individual people files and throughout the collection: City Editor Frank S. Adams (1952-1963); Metropolitan Editors Abraham M. Rosenthal (1963-1967), Arthur Gelb (1967-1976), Mitchel Levitas (1976-1977), and Sydney Schanberg (1977-1980).
These files do not comprehensively document the Metropolitan desk; they cover only the years 1952 to 1980, the bulk of which were created between 1961 and 1979. The New York Times archivists weeded items from the collection in 1990. Items kept largely represent letters and memoranda sent to or from senior editors with fewer communications among reporters or lower-level editorial staff members. For additional records related to the Metropolitan Desk, see the A.M. Rosenthal papers and the New York Times Company Records. A.M. Rosenthal papers.
The New York Times Company records. Metropolitan Desk records are arranged in two series:
- 1945-19791.25 boxes
This series is made up of files that contain items to, from, or concerning various individuals, primarily New York Times staff members, with some files on politicians and other newsmakers. Staff member files typically include letters and memoranda between them and Metropolitan Desk editors. They frequently consist of feedback on and assessments of their work. A few staff files also contain biographical and work history reports and photographs of the staff (portraits and shots from events and inside The Times' offices). While this series contains some correspondence with sources, politicians, and other prominent New Yorkers, most of the non-staff members' files are made up of letters discussing The Times' reporting on these individuals, though they occasionally contain notes on off-the-record events such as luncheons or one-on-one meetings.
Files are arranged alphabetically by name. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files. These files do not necessarily collect every letter, memorandum, or document related to the individual; subject files should also be consulted, particularly for additional letters and memoranda among Metropolitan Desk editors.
- 1961-19833.75 boxes
This series is made up of alphabetical subject files that are organized (and titled) by topical keywords, types of news assignments, specific news stories, or organizations. Internal correspondence and memoranda make up the bulk of these files and consist of communications between Metropolitan Desk editors and reporters. These items reveal the news gathering and editing process of the Metropolitan Desk and document daily interactions between the metropolitan editors and the rest of their staff. Topics discussed include reporter assignments and criticisms and notes on specific news stories. Of note are the Editorial Policy files that include memoranda from Assistant Managing Editor Allan M. Siegal, who was closely involved with copyediting and enforcing style standards. These memoranda explain a wide range of editorial decisions, from usage of specific terms for sensitive topics (abortion, civil rights, religious news, criminal news, and others) to headline writing and stopping the use of specific archaic terms and phrases.
Of special interest are the files concerning the "Dr. X Killings" that relate to a series of murders at a hospital in Bergen County, New Jersey, in 1966. Reporter Myron Farber, who investigated the case for The Times, was jailed in 1978 for refusing to disclose confidential sources and documents to the court. The file contains correspondence regarding the development of Farber's initial investigation, records concerning his and The Times' legal fight, and letters and clippings on the public response to Faber serving jail time. The News Sources files contain additional Metropolitan Desk records regarding subpoenaed reporters.
Files are arranged alphabetically by file title. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files.