Ten days ago, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger began turning out stories in his new job as Midwest correspondent for The New York Times.
Sulzberger, a fifth-generation member of the Ochs-Sulzberger dynasty that has controlled and managed The Times since 1896, was named a Midwest correspondent, based in Kansas City, in June. He moved to Kansas City within the past few weeks and alives near downtown. His grandmother, Annie Gregg, lives in Topeka.
Sulzberger, who uses the byline A.G. Sulzberger, has had three midwestern stories since Sept. 10. The first was a provocative piece about a video war game that allows the user to become aTaliban fighter and attack American troops. The Army, Navy and Air Force have prohibited the game from being sold on their bases. The Marines had not decided whether to make it available on their bases.
The second story, which was published last Thursday, was about a Mulvane, Kan., man who built a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge over a creek on his property.
The third one, published Friday, was very special. It was a front-page feature on a 103-year-old federal judge in Wichita. Yes, Judge Wesley E. Brown is still hearing cases at a century plus three.
Sulzberger opened the story like this:
“Judge Wesley E. Brown’s mere presence in his courtroom is seen as something of a daily miracle. His diminished frame is nearly lost behind the bench. A tube under his nose feeds him oxygen during hearings. And he warns lawyers preparing for lengthy court battles that he may not live to see the cases to completion, adding the old saying, ‘At this age, I’m not even buying green bananas.’ “
It might be an old saying, but it sure made me laugh.
As lively and polished as Sulzberger’s writing was, it was a photo that The Times used that elevated the story to a remarkably high level. The photo showed a smiling Judge Brown virtually swallowed by his big office chair and appearing to be sliding down under his big, wide desk. It’s a hilarious picture, and to use another old saying, it’s a picture that’s worth a thousand words.
Wisely, The Kansas City Star picked up the story and also ran it on the front page. Unwisely, The Star chose not to run the tell-tale photo, opting instead for a mug shot.
Before moving to Kansas City, the 29-year-old Sulzberger was covering U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. He joined The Times’ staff early last year, after reporting stints at The Oregonian and The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal.
He is the son of Times’ chairman and publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. He got his middle name from his mother, Gail Gregg. Young Sulzberger has a sister, Annie Sulzberger, who is not in the newspaper business.
I had the pleasure of meeting Arthur earlier this summer, and he struck me as genuine, unassuming and enthusiastic about his Kansas City-based assignment.
This is the first time that The Times has had a Kansas City-based correspondent in nearly 20 years. In my opinion, this is a great move by The Times, which, like the Wall Street Journal, is spreading its reach as a “national” newspaper. Unfortunately, while The Times and the Wall Street Journal are extending their tentacles, the nation’s second-tier papers, like The Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune, are pulling in their horns because of financial problems, and they’re losing their foothold with many readers.
For more than a year now I’ve subscribed to The Times, along with The Star. I understand that the vast majority of people either can’t afford two newspapers or they’re just not interested enough to take both (or maybe either). I would urge all of you, however, to at least try to follow Arthur Sulzberger’s writing out of Kansas City on The Times’ web site, www.nyt.com. If you just check the site every once in a while, you can put “A.G. Sulzberger” in the search box, and his stories will pop up.
We’re lucky to have him among us. For one thing, it could elevate our profile in the eyes of the nation. So, welcome, Arthur, we hope you enjoy your time in our great city!