Arthur Gelb, influential NY Times editor, dies

Arthur Gelb, influential NY Times editor, dies

As an arts critic in the 1960s, he wrote about Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce and others early in their careers

Former New York Times editor Arthur Gelb. (YouTube screenshot)
Former New York Times editor Arthur Gelb. (YouTube screenshot)

NEW YORK — Veteran editor Arthur Gelb, whose news sense, arts sensibility and journalistic vigor sculpted The New York Times for decades, died Tuesday at age 90.

Gelb died in New York, said Peter Clark, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Opera, where Gelb’s son Peter Gelb is general manager. Clark didn’t know the cause of his death, but Peter Gelb told the Times his father died of complications of a stroke.

Arthur Gelb joined the Times as a copy boy in 1944 and rose to become its managing editor, retiring in 1989. Along the way, he was an influential arts writer, a metropolitan editor who oversaw a famous expose of police corruption and a newsroom leader who helped create the now-familiar Sports Monday, Science Times and other daily sections, the newspaper said.

“Arthur Gelb was a powerful part of the Times for decades,” publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. “He brought great energy and insight to our journalism.”

Just three days into his copy boy job, Gelb got his editors’ OK for a news outlet of his own: a weekly about the internal life of the newspaper, the Times said. He quickly got to know reporters and editors, and promotions followed.

When a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building in July 1945, Gelb reported from Bellevue Hospital. Nurses spoke openly with the young, inexperienced reporter and taught him “a journalistic virtue: naivete,” he wrote later.

As an arts critic in the 1960s, he wrote about Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce and others early in their careers. He was metropolitan editor from 1967 to 1978, leading coverage of a city wracked by anti-war protests, a municipal near-bankruptcy and police corruption. The Times’ reporting on allegations raised by Officer Frank Serpico helped spur reforms in the New York Police Department.

Gelb became deputy managing editor in 1977 and managing editor in 1986. After retiring, he served as president of the Times’ charitable foundation.

He and his wife, Barbara Gelb, also became experts on Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, writing books and helping write a documentary about him.

Arthur Neal Gelb was born in New York on Feb. 3, 1924. His parents, Jewish immigrants from what is now Ukraine, ran a dress shop.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more: