Scope and arrangement
The A.M. Rosenthal papers are comprised of Rosenthal's files at The New York Times dating from the late 1960s to his retirement in 1986. The collection provides an in-depth look at Rosenthal's professional discourse and decision making in his most influential years. The papers comprise an essential part of the paper's history. Rosenthal was a key figure, working at what was then arguably the most important newspaper in the world. With his colleagues, Rosenthal made decisions that influenced how many people perceived current events. The New York Times files represent the correspondence to and from A.M. Rosenthal's office during his tenure as managing editor and executive editor.
The New York Times files consist of Rosenthal's office files from, roughly, 1967 through 1986, covering his roles as Assistant and Associate Managing Editor, Managing Editor, and Executive Editor. It contains mostly memoranda to and from the publisher, Rosenthal's associates and staff members in the News Department, and executives and members of other departments of The Times, as well as business correspondence with staff members abroad, professional acquaintances and organizations, government officials and other persons in the news, and subscribers and readers. Some correspondence with friends and relatives, as well as a few papers postdating his retirement from The Times, are included. The files delineate Rosenthal's relationship with The Times and The Times's relationship with the world.
The collection contains thousands of internal memoranda and correspondence with Times staff that document the deliberations and thought processes behind the management of the paper. Personnel decisions regarding hiring, assignments, and bureau staffing are debated and solved by Rosenthal and his deputies as they worked to find the best talent in journalism and the best use of the talent they had. Editorial policies and questions of tone, style, taste, and subject are settled in these pages. Disagreements are outlined and discussed, providing greater insight into the final outcomes of internal debates. Rosenthal's place at the top of the editorial line allows researchers to see the extent to which the publisher communicated with the day-to-day staff, which questions required an opinion from the publisher, and which did not. The development of Times innovations like the Science Times and the Weekend section are illustrated in these files, showing the planning, and occasional false starts, leading to major changes in the paper's format.
Ongoing in these files is the dialogue between the paper, often represented by Rosenthal, and the newsmakers The Times covered, with some of whom Rosenthal developed more personal relationships. Many significant figures in local, national, international and cultural affairs wrote to Rosenthal; some of these letters are long and revealing, some funny. He replied and/or wrote to someone else at The Times about the letter. Rosenthal also often recorded his meetings with these individuals in long, thoughtful memos to his colleagues.
The papers include files on figures such as Spiro Agnew, Zbigniew Brzezinski, William F. Buckley Jr., George Bush, Truman Capote, Jimmy Carter, Mario Cuomo, Bill Graham, W. Averell Harriman, Hubert Humphrey, Jacob Javits, Alfred Kazin, Ted Kennedy, Alfred A. Knopf, Ed Koch, John Lindsay, Arthur Schlesinger, Robert Moses, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Rupert Murdoch, Ralph Nader, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, George Steinbrenner, Gloria Steinem, Tom Stoppard, Elie Wiesel, and Tom Wolfe, as well as subject files on topics such as Affirmative Action, the Pentagon Papers, Cambodia, El Salvador, Vietnam, Watergate, the Middle East, and the Moon Landing.
When newsmakers or readers wanted to communicate with The Times, Rosenthal's office was usually part of the conversation. In many cases, Rosenthal was in direct contact with correspondents of the paper; in others, he was brought into the dialogue by the publisher or by another editor. In some cases, Rosenthal and other Times staff members wrote notes directly on incoming letters, indicating their views or planned responses. Rosenthal was always a distinct personality, and his voice was never solely the voice of the paper. Some personal correspondence is included in this series, with colleagues and outsiders alike.
Still, Rosenthal saw himself as a guardian of The Times, and the files reflect that attitude. His principles informed and governed every aspect of the news operation, and they pervade these notes and letters. many of the papers deal with overcoming press restrictions, keeping the news columns free of opinion, separating content from business, and other issues of journalistic ethics.The papers reflect Rosenthal's responses to criticism, varying depending on whether or not he saw it as justified, and his enthusiasm for his work and for the paper on which he performed it.
The files are divided into two subseries: people and subjects. The people files consist of folders labeled by personal names. They contain correspondence with and/or about the individual named. The subject files consist of folders titled by keywords, events, organizational names, or geographic locations. The majority of the material dates from 1967 to 1986, but a few earlier and later exceptions are included. Memoranda and correspondence by Rosenthal's principal associates and assistants that had been in his files, though neither addressed to him nor marked as copies for him, have been retained here. Seven boxes of restricted material will become available in 2026.
Material germane to two or more titles is not, as a rule, duplicated in the relevant folders; instead, it is stored in the one deemed most important by The New York Times and other relevant names or subjects are cross-referenced. Papers dealing with specific subjects are generally stored in their subject folders rather than in the people folders of the persons involved, and their names are covered by cross-references. Cross-references are made from the principal names and the next most important subject titles, but are not exhaustive. Some names and subjects in the finding aid do not represent folders, but exist only as cross-references.
The New York Times Company records. A.M. Rosenthal papers are arranged in two series:
- 52 boxes
The people files are comprised of folders identified by personal names. The folders contain correspondence between Rosenthal and the subject, between Rosenthal and others regarding the subject, and in some cases, both. People files can be found for newsmakers, Times staff members, and Rosenthal friends, acquaintances, and relatives. Most of the correspondence details New York Times business, but there are letters and segments of letters that touch on more personal matters, including, in many cases, Rosenthal's 1986 retirement as Executive Editor. Some of the more notable names include Spiro Agnew, Zbigniew Brzezinski, William F. Buckley Jr., George Bush, Truman Capote, Jimmy Carter, Mario Cuomo, Bill Graham, W. Averell Harriman, Hubert Humphrey, Jacob Javits, Alfred Kazin, Ted Kennedy, Alfred A. Knopf, Ed Koch, John Lindsay, Arthur Schlesinger, Robert Moses, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Rupert Murdoch, Ralph Nader, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, George Steinbrenner, Gloria Steinem, Tom Stoppard, Elie Wiesel, and Tom Wolfe. Folders regarding staff members relate to hiring, assignments, editing, leave requests, and all aspects of their work on the paper. Some names in the finding aid do not represent folders, but exist only as cross-references. Five boxes of restricted material will be closed until 2026.
- 77 boxes
The subject files categorize correspondence relating to news events, geographical areas, companies and organizations, fields of study or interest, and aspects of The New York Times itself. Historical topics include Affirmative Action, the Pentagon Papers, Cambodia, El Salvador, Vietnam, Watergate, the Middle East, and the Moon Landing. Subjects on features of The Times contain internal correspondence relating to the relevant sections of the paper, as well as letters to and from interested readers on the subjects concerned. Historical subjects include internal memoranda, letters from readers, and letters from newsmakers themselves regarding the subjects in question. Some subjects in the finding aid do not represent folders, but exist only as cross-references. Two boxes of restricted material will be closed until 2026.