Gelb: Paper’s integrity must be maintained

From a copy boy to the managing editor of The New York Times, Arthur Gelb told the story of his rise through the ranks and the changes in the newsroom over the years to journalism students and the TCU community Monday night.As in his autobiography, “City Room,” Gelb described The New York Times when he began in 1944.

There was no such thing as privacy in those days, the former managing editor said. Reporters worked with their desks side to side, wall to wall and the sounds of manual typewriters always filled the room.

Gelb recounted the use of telegraphs to relay breaking news and the late-night editing that was performed with scissors and paste.

“The newsroom was always pulsing with life,” he said.

Today’s spacious, air-conditioned newsroom is eerily calm and quiet, he said. There is no more “clickety-clackety” of typewriters, and partitions litter the work area.

Recently, Gelb said, the pummeling taken by The New York Times has made those in the business heartsick. With cases in the last year bringing into question moral issues in the paper, he said those in charge need to take responsibility.

“When I was there, the paper was all that mattered,” he said. “Those working on the paper guarded its integrity with their lives.”

Howard Crook, a former reporter for The Times who worked under Gelb, said Gelb reigned over the “golden age” of The New York Times. Gelb’s warmth in dealing with reporters and editors and nurturing nature are what have set him apart at The Times, Crook said.

Mary Wrench, a senior advertising/public relations major, said she appreciated Gelb’s practice of being sensitive with young writers, despite his high position.

Tommy Thomason, director of the Schieffer School of Journalism, agreed that Gelb’s work as a newspaper editor was outstanding.

“We would love to see journalism students from TCU work under editors such as Gelb someday,” he said.