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Remembering “Punch” of The New York Times

Bob Joseph/WNBF News

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger died over the weekend. The man known as “Punch” had overseen The New York Times for more than three decades. He was 86.

The Times today is remarkably different than the June 21, 1963, edition of the paper that reported Sulzberger had been named publisher.

Looking back on that front page of The Times more than 49 years later dramatically reveals how much has changed.

By 2012 standards, Page One is a boring black-and-white layout. Eight narrow columns instead of the current six. More than a dozen stories are crammed onto the page, each vying for attention.

Sunday’s Times, which reported on Sulzberger’s death, features only five stories on the front page and color photographs, including a 1992 image of Punch to illustrate a lengthy obituary.

Punch is credited with pushing for design changes and adding special sections, including those that highlighted science news, sports and the arts.

The improvements, which some longtime readers found jarring, ultimately improved circulation and revenue for The Times.

Punch is remembered for clearing the way in 1971 for publication of The Pentagon Papers, government documents that detailed the history of the Vietnam War in a less-than-flattering way.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger helped The Times live up to its slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

It’s worth noting that Punch’s obit, which dominated Sunday’s Page One and fills three full inside pages, appears much more impressive in the print edition than in the online or iPad renditions.

I don’t know what Sulzberger thought of the transition to digital platforms. But I can’t imagine he was very thrilled about where the traditional newspaper was heading.

Despite the changes in the ways people read The Times, it continues to set the journalistic agenda in the United States and in much of the world.

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