Former New York Times executive editor dies at 84

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NEW YORK (AP) – A.M. Rosenthal, a demanding editor who lifted The New York Times from economic doldrums in the 1970s and molded it into a journalistic juggernaut known for distinguished reporting of national and world affairs, died Wednesday at age 84.

He died of complications from a stroke he suffered two weeks ago, the Times said.

Rosenthal, known as Abe, spent virtually all of his working life at the Times, beginning as a lowly campus stringer in 1943. He rose to police reporter, foreign correspondent, managing editor and finally to the exalted office of executive editor, a post he held for nine years beginning in 1977.

“Abe was a giant among journalists,” retired Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said in a statement. “He was a great editor with extraordinary loyalty to his troops.”

On Rosenthal’s watch, the Times published the “Pentagon Papers,” a history of America’s secret involvement in Vietnam, which won the paper one of its many Pulitzer Prizes in 1972. But the paper started slowly on Watergate and never caught up with the rival Washington Post on the seminal story that brought down a president.

In 1986, facing mandatory retirement, Rosenthal stepped down as editor to assume a new role as a twice-weekly columnist. Thirteen years later, he was abruptly dismissed, with no explanation, he said, other than a comment by Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that “it’s time.”

Rosenthal made clear that the parting was not his idea, telling one questioner that to say he had retired “would imply volition.” When asked by a reporter for the rival Washington Post whether he was fired, he replied, “Sweetheart, you can use any word you want.”

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