On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the New York Times, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told the assembled audience of well-wishers that a truly great newspaper stands for more than accountable journalism and sound business.
A newspaper is a public trust, he said, recasting for the celebratory occasion the philosophy that continues to guide America's premier newspaper, the family's relationship to the institution they control, and the legal trust they embrace all of which are subjects of The Trust.
The authors relate how Arthur Jr. and the three publishers who preceded him his great-grandfather, Adolph Ochs, the first of the Times patriarchs, his grandfather, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and his father, Arthur Ochs (Punch) Sulzberger work to keep the trust. They also weave in the central role played by others, but particularly Arthur Jr.'s grandmother and family matriarch, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger.
It turns out the notion of a legal trust, originating with Adolph Ochs, is also the means by which the family can remain dominant in American journalism. Careers at the Times company have been made for those who understood these intricate family dynamics and broken for those who failed to grasp how the dynastic order worked, particularly in matters of succession.
The Trust takes readers inside the public and private aspects of the trust, exploring in intimate detail the family's relationships with one another and with the New York Times. In the process, it humanizes this eminently influential newspaper.
Dialogues between husband and wife, father and son, publisher and U.S. president, newspaperman and woman with sources are recreated after obviously thorough and diligent reporting and with the family's apparent cooperation. As a result, the vicissitudes of the newspaper business, both at headquarters and wherever else the company has properties, come to life.
Readers learn how the pace of modernization within the communications industry can apply unrelenting pressure on the Times leadership and how a decision to diversify the business is necessitated by the threat of red ink. Likewise, readers find themselves at the conference table when editors make heady decisions often with international ramifications. A decision to accede to President Kennedy's request not to disclose the timing of plans for the Bay of Pigs Invasion is explored as well as the Times' gutsy decision to continue publishing the Pentagon Papers in defiance of the Nixon administration's threats.
With their sites trained on the trust and the four generations of family that stand behind it, the authors invite a comparison to the equally mammoth biographies written by Ron Chernow. However, The Trust authors, both award-winning journalists, are concerned more with the family's inner workings than with an in-depth accounting of either historical or political context. In fact, the book's great value is its unadulterated accounting of the trust that continues to shape one of America's most influential families and the newspaper that translates the world for readers each and every day.