Scope and arrangement
The Theodore M. Bernstein papers primarily document Bernstein's tenure as assistant managing editor of The New York Times from 1951 to 1969. The collection contains correspondence, internal memoranda, and clippings that reveal Bernstein's impact on news coverage as a senior editor and his influence on style, English language usage, typography, and layout of The Times. The collection contains only a few records from Bernstein's early career as copy editor, foreign news editor, or assistant night managing editor, including a scrapbook of news-related cables he received from the government during World War II and a small selection of writings and letters to the editor from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Also present are photographs of Bernstein and his family, and some letters and memoranda created during his time as editorial director of the book division from 1969 until his retirement in 1972.
These papers are made up of Bernstein's extant working files, the bulk of which are communications with staff members, both reporters and editors, which concern his views on style. Other topics discussed include complaints from writers about changes in their stories by the editing staff in New York, staff assignments, and discussions with other senior editors and the publishers regarding staff performance and the coverage of specific news stories.
The collection is divided into two series: I. People and II. Subjects. The People files consist of records pertaining to individuals, while the Subjects files contain items on specific topics and departments. Items germane to two or more people or subjects are often cross-referenced in the finding aid; documents related to specific issues are generally located in subject files rather than the people folders of those involved.
For more of Bernstein's internal memoranda and writings, researchers should see the papers of his fellow executive editors, such as E. Clifton Daniel and A.M. Rosenthal.
The New York Times Company records. Theodore M. Bernstein papers are arranged in two series:
- 1948-19712 boxes
This series is made up of files that contain items to, from, or concerning various individuals, primarily New York Times staff members. Many letters are between Bernstein and foreign, national, and New York City-based correspondents. The majority of these contain discussions of style and correct language usage, often accompanied by clippings from The Times or the Winners and Sinners bulletin that illustrated Bernstein's point. Notably, many of his responses take the form of personal advice, rather than directives of Times official policies.
Files for executive editors, E. Clifton Daniel, Max Frankel, and A. M. Rosenthal, and for publishers Arthur Hays Sulzberger and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger contain memoranda assessing news coverage and the performance of employees and entire departments. These files also include personal notes. The file for Sunday Editor Lester Markel is particularly extensive and consists of short notes that discuss English language usage and the presentation of news.
Files are arranged alphabetically by name. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files.
- 1924-19844 boxes
This series is made up of subject files that are organized (and titled) by topical keywords, columns, departments, or outside organizations. These files touch on almost every aspect of the operations of the News Department, from news coverage and editorial decision making, to the appearance and mechanical production of the paper. Present are Bernstein's frequent communications with editors E. Clifton Daniel, John B. Oakes, Turner Catledge, and Harrison Salisbury, and with publishers Orvil Dryfoos, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. These consist of discussions related to personnel, staff member performance, promotions, and retirements. The series also contains Bernstein's exchanges with specific departments, including the Cultural News, Make-Up Desk, Picture Desk, Science News, Sports News, and the Sunday Department. Files also contain communications with staff members concerning Bernstein's views on style and proper usage. Other topics discussed include complains from writers about changes in their stories by the editing staff in New York, staff assignments, and issues regarding news coverage.
The following are some of the most extensive and information-rich files: the Editorial Policy file contains notes from Bernstein commenting on the daily presentation of the news; the Headlines file documents Bernstein's views on word choice and the appearance of headlines; the Style folder consists of Bernstein's directives establishing newspaper-wide standards; and the Type, Size and Design files include memoranda concerning the size of columns and presentation of maps and feature many notes from Arthur Hays Sulzberger. Also of note are the International Edition files. Bernstein served as the founding editor of the International Edition from 1960 to 1961. This edition, which ran out of Paris, used stories sent from New York by cable and reproduced by teletypesetter. Present is correspondence that concern the creation of the edition and the operation of getting the news from New York to Paris, along with samples of mock-ups for the edition.
Of special interest is the file labeled World War II, which contains a scrapbook, compiled by Bernstein, of cables from Director of Censorship Byron Price in Washington to members of the press. These communications debriefed the press on what information was permissible to print. Cable topics range from guidelines on the types of information that is safe to report on, and what details could be useful to the enemy, such as locations of attacks or raids and troop movements. They also warn against expressing optimism on the outcomes of battles in news stories.
This series also contains a folder of photographs of Bernstein and his family, and files relating to articles and books written by Bernstein.
Files are arranged alphabetically by file title. Entries without box and folder numbers cross-reference related material in other files.