Scope and arrangement
The Seymour Topping papers are composed of Topping's office files, primarily from his time as deputy managing editor and managing editor of The New York Times between 1976 and 1986. The collection also contains some items from between 1968 and 1975 when Topping was Times foreign editor and assistant managing editor, as well as photographs of Topping and his family dated as early as 1963. The bulk of the collection documents the day-to-day operations of the News Department under Topping, as well as his interactions with fellow editors and staff members of the various newspaper sections (culture, education, family, financial, metropolitan news, sports, style, and others), desks, city bureaus, and with The Times' advertising and production departments.
Topping's contributions to the paper are numerous, as evidenced by the large amount of internal memoranda between Topping and his associates in the News Department present in this collection. Memoranda and notes reflect all manner of issues facing the News Department, especially the working relationship between the news and editorial departments, and concerning general editorial policies, news coverage and assignments, publication space issues, story schedules and deadlines, production schedules, and headline development. Also present are records that touch on Topping's involvement with the launching and development of The Times regional newspapers and various national editions.
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, institutions, geographic locations, and many of the paper's departments, sections, and columns. 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.
Topping's correspondence and memoranda with the executive editor can be found in the New York Times Company Records. A.M. Rosenthal papers. Throughout his editorial tenure at The Times and as head of the news department, Topping worked closely with Rosenthal, who was managing editor from 1969 to 1976 and then executive editor from 1976 to 1986. Topping's memoranda with Rosenthal are not duplicated in the Topping papers. Records from Topping during his time as New York Times foreign correspondent and foreign news editor can be found in the New York Times Company records. Foreign Desk records (1959-1966).
The New York Times Company records. Seymour Topping papers are arranged in two series:
This series is made up of files that contain items to, from, or concerning various individuals. People include staff members and others affiliated with the New York Times, as well as prominent individuals. Files consist of correspondence and memoranda documenting staff assignments, personnel issues, and letters of recommendation from Topping. Files for prominent individuals contain memoranda discussing coverage of them in The Times or correspondence regarding scheduling meetings and interviews. The most extensive files are those for Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, which contain memoranda on news coverage, story ideas, formatting and layout, and editorial suggestions; and for Iphigene Sulzberger, which hold her suggestions for news stories and correspondence surrounding the publication of her 1981 memoir.
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.
This series is made up of alphabetical subject files that are organized (and titled) by topical keywords, institution names, geographic location, and Times departments and newspaper sections. The bulk of these files contain memoranda distributed among Topping's senior colleagues, including Arthur Gelb, John Pomfret, Sydney Gruson, Allan M. Siegal, Louis J. Silverstein, Max Frankel, and sometimes Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal and Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. Memoranda reveal all manner of news department operations, mostly regarding staff assignments, news coverage, developing news stories, editorial processes, introductions of new features and special sections, space and layout issues, and staff meeting and luncheon notes. Several files, particularly those pertaining to specific columns or sections, feature readers' mail and complaints. While Topping's focus was on national, foreign, and New York City news, financial news is also particularly well documented.
Of special note are the Enterprise Meetings files. The Enterprise Meetings were weekly meetings of editors designed to generate ideas, proposals, and coordination for special investigative projects. The meetings fostered story ideas across newspaper sections, irrespective of department lines. These files consist of follow-up reports on the Enterprise Meetings, memoranda on specific topics for stories, and rules and procedures for the projects. Also of interest are the National Edition memoranda regarding the planning, testing, and launching of the new edition in 1980.