Scope and arrangement
The William Safire papers contain office files that Safire kept while working as a columnist at The New York Times. These include correspondence with colleagues, acquaintances, news sources, and readers (1970-1987); readers' mail responding to his political "Essays" column (1990-1997); and research files that Safire created to support his political reporting during the 1970s and early 1980s. The collection does not contain material related to Safire's "On Language" column or his pre-Times career.
The Personal and Miscellaneous Correspondence section is made up of letters sent to Safire's Times office, many of which are accompanied by copies of Safire's outgoing responses. These letters are grouped alphabetically by writer's last name. Included in this section are a small number of communications with his colleagues at The Times, including Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and editors Arthur Gelb and Seymour Topping, among others. Also present is correspondence with fellow journalists discussing his columns. Letters from friends concern invitations to social events and congratulations on becoming a Times columnist, publishing books, winning awards, and other achievements.
Readers' Mail is made up of letters addressed to Safire and the editors of The Times in response to many of Safire's columns between 1990 and 1998. Letters are loosely grouped by year and sometimes by topic. The most substantial portion of these concerns the Persian Gulf War and its aftermath; many letters discuss the war's effects on the Kurdish population in the region (1991-1993). Among the other subjects discussed are the 1990s Yugoslav wars, the O.J. Simpson trial, and same-sex marriage.
The Research Files are an alphabetical run of papers, grouped by topic, which Safire compiled over the course of writing his twice-weekly "Essay" column. Files pertain to national and global political stories on which Safire reported. They contain letters from sources providing Safire with background information in the attempt to influence his coverage, Safire's requests for information from sources and from the government (including FOIA requests), transcripts of interviews conducted by Safire and others, and Safire's research notes. The most extensive files concern President Jimmy Carter's administration, including scandals involving Carter's brother, Billy Carter; Carter's director of the Office of Management and Budget, Bert Lance; and Philadelphia attorney general, David Marston. Other notable files include those on government wiretapping practices and Safire's reporting on and trips to Israel and China. Also present is Safire's appointment book for 1981.
The collection is grouped into three sections: Personal Correspondence, Readers' Mail, and Research Files. Personal Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name, Reader's Mail is ordered chronologically by year and often grouped by topic, and Research Files are organized alphabetically by file title.