Arthur Gelb, one of the key editors that helped define the outstanding cultural and metropolitan news coverage of the New York Times, died in Manhattan on Tuesday at the age of 90, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for the New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where his son is general manager, said the cause of death was complications from a stroke.
The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Gelb joined the Times in 1944 as a copy boy. Through a company newsletter he started, editors came know more about him and gave him an opening in the reportorial team, the report said.
Working for the newspaper’s culture section in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gelb highlighted little-known entertainers including Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce and Phyllis Diller, novice playwrights such as Edward Albee, and the theater impresario Joseph Papp.
In 1963, he became the deputy of the new metropolitan editor, A.M. “Abe” Rosenthal, and the two transformed the paper’s “predictable, not particularly crusading local coverage into enterprise journalism about city life”, the Post reported.
Gelb was one of the top editors behind the Times’ front-page exclusive report that Dan Burros, head of the New York State Ku Klux Klan and a former American Nazi Party official, had been born and raised Jewish. Burros later killed himself.
In 1967, Gelb succeeded Rosenthal as metropolitan editor and pursued the paper’s distinguished coverage of the city’s social, economic and racial tensions, the report said. He also co-wrote the first definitive biography of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill.
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