ARTHUR GREGG SULZBERGER doesn’t remember the first time he visited the family business. He was young, he says, no older than 6, when he shuffled through the brass-plated revolving doors of the old concrete hulk on 43rd Street and boarded the elevator up to his father’s and grandfather’s offices. He often visited for a few minutes before taking a trip to the newsroom on the third floor, all typewriters and moldering stacks of paper, and then he’d sometimes go down to the subbasement to take in the oily scents and clanking sounds of the printing press. This was the early ’80s, when The New York Times was nothing but ink on paper and was printed in the same building where the journalism was created. His memories are hazy, perhaps because he’s 36 now and it was a long time ago, and perhaps because that building, like the Times, was always just there, a fact of life.
The Times building is still there, except it’s not the Times building anymore. It’s been sold off and sliced up, and the top two floors are presently occupied by Snapchat, while the bottom two were bought by Kushner Companies, the family business of Jared Kushner, son-in-law extraordinaire of Donald J. Trump. A few blocks—but more like a century—away from that old building, Sulzberger sits in his office in the newish glass-and-steel-lattice-encased headquarters of the Times. He looks the picture of a young tech executive—close-cropped hair, tortoiseshell glasses, considered stubble—and I ask him point-blank if he worries about whether The New York Times will ever cease to be a fact of life. “No,” he says, equally point-blank, which is exactly the party line one expects to hear from the deputy publisher of the Times—a recent appointment that put him next in line to lead the paper when the current publisher and chair, his father, retires. But there could be another reason for his confidence. Sulzberger, like more than three dozen other executives and journalists I interviewed and shadowed at the Times, is working on the biggest strategic shift in the paper’s 165-year history, and he believes it will strengthen its bottom line, enhance the quality of its journalism, and secure a long and lasting future.