- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

A.M. Rosenthal, the legendary reporter and editor who spent more than 60 years in journalism — including 17 years as a top architect of the New York Times — died Wednesday at 84. Mr. Rosenthal, who began his career in 1943 as campus correspondent for the New York Times, went on to spend 56 years with the paper and became one of the most powerful journalists in the world.

The youngest of six children of working-class parents, he grew up in the Bronx. His father, a house painter, died of injuries suffered in fall from a scaffold when he was a boy, and four of his five sisters died when he was young: two from cancer; one in childbirth and another from pneumonia. After contracting a rare bone-marrow disease, he was forced to drop out of high school to seek treatment as a charity patient at the Mayo Clinic. After completing high school, Mr. Rosenthal enrolled at City College of New York and subsequently joined the New York Times. From 1943 until 1962, he covered such diverse areas as New York City, the United Nations, India, Poland and Japan. In 1959, the communist regime in Poland expelled Mr. Rosenthal from the country, complaining that his reporting was “too probing”; the following year, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Poland.

From 1963 until 1986, Mr. Rosenthal served in a variety of senior positions, beginning with metropolitan editor and rising to executive editor of the New York Times. During this period, he presided over the New York Times’ coverage of such stories as the Vietnam War, the release of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. At a time when newspapers around the country were reporting declines in circulation, the New York Times’ circulation grew and revenues soared. Mr. Rosenthal also oversaw expansions in the paper’s national and local coverage and launched a national edition of the paper. It is difficult to imagine that Mr. Rosenthal — a stickler for high standards and keeping editorializing out of the news section — would have tolerated the kind of tendentious coverage of the Iraq war or the decline in standards that characterized the Jayson Blair scandal.

From 1987 until 1999, when he was forced to retire, Mr. Rosenthal was a columnist for the New York Times. In February 2000, he began a new column in the New York Daily News and in The Washington Times. As a columnist, Mr. Rosenthal moved rightward, establishing himself as a tenacious defender of Israel and persecuted people around the world — particularly Christians. Well before September 11, he was forceful in warning Americans about the danger posed by radical Islam.

One of his best columns ran in this newspaper on July 30, 2001, in which Mr. Rosenthal chided the New York Times for opposing an amendment by Rep. Spencer Bacchus, Alabama Republican, which barred the use of American money for oil development in Sudan — in response to the regime’s slaughter of tribesman in southern Sudan. “I am deeply sorry the paper editorially warned against a politically sound human-rights solution,” he wrote. To the very end, Abe Rosenthal the columnist distinguished himself as one of freedom’s most impassioned defenders.

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