Kaiser and Rosenthal know the ropes

By A. James Memmott

November 9, 2007 at 3:54pm

Son of a diplomat, a long-time journalist, a teacher, Charles Kaiser is, by any measure, well-connected.

And all of these connections made him the right person for a sitdown interview with Andrew Rosenthal, editor of the editor page of the New York Times editorial page.

Rosenthal is the son of Abe Rosenthal, the former editor of the Times, who died last year.

The Q and A with Rosenthal appears in Radar Online and it kicks off Kasier’s new media column, Full Court Press.

In the interview, Rosenthal, 51, talks about everything from his own time in therapy, to his father’s brief time as a communist, to his own reluctance to every follow in his father’s footsteps.

Kaiser: Nobody’s going to believe you don’t want to be executive editor. Including me.

Rosenthal: I don’t want to talk about that. I watched that job kill my father. I’m not really interested in it.

Kaiser: It hardly killed him. He went on for quite a while afterward.

Rosenthal: It ruined him. It turned him into a crazy person. They all - I don’t know if they go in crazy, but they all come out crazy. All of them.

Kaiser knew the right questions to ask because he knows the Times from his own time at that shop.

He started working there in the early 1970s when was still an undergraduate at Columbia University.

Abe Rosenthal, then managing editor, was his first boss. Starting as a clerk, Kaiser went on to be a metro a reporter. He later was a press critic for Newsweek. And he worked at the Wall Street Journal.

He’s taught at Columbia and Princeton universities and he’s the author of two books, 1968 In America and The Gay Metropolis.

In addition, Kaiser is the son of the late Philip Mayer Kaiser, who was the U.S. Ambassador to four countries, Senegal, Mauritania, Hungary and Austria and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The son of immigrants from Ukraine, Philip Kaiser, who died at age 93 this May, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

He met Harold Wilson, the future British prime minister at Oxford. Later, he knew presidents Truman and Kennedy and many government officials and journalists, including Edward R. Morrow and James Reston.

Philip Kaiser and his wife, Hannah, had two other sons, Robert Kaiser, an associate editor at the Washington Post and, David Kaiser, who teaches history at the Naval War College.

Charles Kaiser says his father showed how to be a good journalist.

“At the dinner table every night, there was a competition to tell the best story,” Kaiser told the Boston Globe. “And if you didn’t tell the story as dramatically as possible, my father would lean forward and bellow, ‘Great reporter! You buried the lead of the story!”

Kaiser writes he, too, may have buried the lead of the Q and A with Andrew Rosenthal, by saving the discussion of Abe Rosenthal’s communism until the end.

Maybe so, but he had a lot of good gossipy material to choose from, including Rosenthal’s memories of going on reporting trips with his dad. One time, he even got to watch a moon launch:

“It was very exciting,” Rosenthal remembered, “because they told me that the press trailers were in the ‘total destruct zone,’ so if the thing blew up, we’d all die. Which I thought was really cool.”

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