Arthur Gelb was hired by the New York Times in 1944 as a night copyboy-the paper's lowliest position. 45 years later, he retired as its managing editor. Along the way, he exposed crooked cops and politicians, mentored a generation of talented journalists, was the first to praise the as-yet-undiscovered Woody Allen and Barbara Streisand, and brought Joe Papp instant recognition. From D-Day to the liberation of the concentration camps, from the agony of Vietnam to the resignation of a President, from the fall of Joe McCarthy to the rise of the Woodstock Nation, Gelb gives an insider's take on the great events of the past fifty years-what he calls "the happiest days of my life."
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The author began working at the The New York Times in 1944 at age 20. He retired 45 years later as a top editor. Published in 2003, City Room tells the story of those 45 years, emphasizing the historical events he and the newspaper covered, the insider story of the newspaper’s workings, and the nitty-gritty of a journalist’s life at America’s best -- if not the only true (in my humble opinion) -- national newspaper. The author’s liveliest prose concerns his early years at the Times, a Front-Page-like experience but with more civility, because it’s the Times. His affection and respect for the paper come through on every page. Mr. Gelb is a master storyteller; he is also a self-confessed pack-rat, saving just about every scrap of paper associated with his years at the Times, so he is able to flesh out his story in incredible detail. Much of his experience at the newspaper was in its cultural department – so Mr. Gelb includes plenty of stories about Broadway and off-Broadway plays in the 1950s and 1960s. City Room is a big, fat book – almost 650 pages – that is, nonetheless, a fast and exciting read for anyone who enjoys reading about journalism history. I am next reading Scotty, a biography of James R. Reston, the Times’s legendary Washington bureau chief -- for another piece of the story.
Very enjoyable read about the history of the Times and media in general. I learned a lot and have recommended this to coworkers in media today.