I’ve known several great newspaper editors, and wrote for four of them: Indro Montanelli, Bob Bartley, Giuliano Ferrara, and Seth Lipsky. The first two are dead, Giuliano edits the tiny yet highly influential il Foglio in Rome, and Seth has now closed the New York Sun, a sad event indeed. Those of you who read it during its six and a half years of publication know what a treat it was. It covered stories nobody else noticed until the Sun broke them, above all stories about the ongoing wreck of American higher education and American culture in general. It developed extraordinary young reporters, from whom we will hear a lot in the years to come. And it exposed the shabby corruption of the New York Times, offering a real alternative, a strong voice blended with humor and wisdom, and a superb collection of regular and occasional columnists.
I first worked with Seth when he edited The Forward, from which he was driven when his fierce independence of political ideology annoyed some of the owners, and they transformed it into an all too predictable member of the leftist chorus that dominates so much of our media. There, too, Seth found brilliant young colleagues, above all Ira Stoll, who was his indispensable and brilliant deputy at the Sun as well, and his wife, Amity Shlaes, whose splendid histories are reshaping our understanding and whose work editing the op-ed page was second to none. Reading their editorials was an intellectual pleasure, both for the quality of their thought and the elegance of their style.
We are in the midst of the death of the printed newspaper, and many others will close in the months and years ahead. For better or worse, we are entering the age of the blog and YouTube and unknown other forms of news and comment. I think for the most part this is a good thing, because it signals the end of an unhealthy cultural and political monopoly and the expansion of a chaotic, brawling universe of competing and conflicting opinions that will make us all think harder and write clearer. Newspapers used to be like that, but they ossified, and are now in terminal state.
Sadly, the few exemplars of excellence will die along with the others, and the Sun was certainly a magnificent case in point. I have no doubt that the many talented members of its staff, from Seth and Ira to Eli Lake and Josh Gershman and the many others who gave us so much understanding, will soon resurface in other publications. They are too good to disappear, and I’m looking forward to their next accomplishments.
Seth knows that, and I am sure that he chose to close the paper on Rosh Hashanah in part for that reason. We celebrate a new year, and look forward to new challenges. He and his colleagues at the Sun have every reason to take pride in their great work, and to prepare themselves for the new challenges ahead.
Thanks, guys. It was great.