Goodbye, Gray Lady: New York Times Legends Take Buyouts, Internal Tributes Follow in Suit

George Gustines, managing editor of T Magazine, on T executive editor Andy Port:

Going Out in Style

Andy Port, T’s executive editor, is retiring, though that word rings a bit false if you know what boundless energy she has. Read more in this note from George Gustines.

She began working at the magazine in December 1992, when T: Women’s Fashion and T: Men’s Fashion were known as Fashion of The Times or the Part 2s, T: Travel was The Sophisticated Traveler, T: Design was Home Design and “the Web site” was an unclean corner of the fashion closet.

She has worked with a League of Extraordinary Style Editors, including Carrie Donovan, Amy Spindler, Holly Brubach, Stefano Tonchi and Sally Singer.

Andy has always been part mentor, part den mother to many of the fashion, style, food and design editors who have walked the halls of the magazine. I asked one of them to wax poetic about everything Andy. The response came almost immediately. Many thanks to Maura Egan for saying it so well:

“An Andy story? Well, God, there are hundreds. She and Amy Spindler used to refer to themselves as Laverne and Shirley. I think Andy was Shirley. They were mad and marvelous together. She’s terrible at faxing and e-mail still to this day. Her office is a mess, which is always the sign of a great editor. I think she got fired from some paper (The Daily News?) because she put Al Sharpton in a Santa Claus suit for the gift guide one year. She loved working the graveyard shift there as well.”

“She eats like a bird but loves sweets. She covets clothes but likes bargains — she was the one who discovered the treasure trove of Rick Owens at the Bay Ridge Century 21 one summer. She believes the only way to truly enjoy reading is in the supine position — God bless her!

(She’s also the only person I know who could use that word correctly. And that’s why she’s the most amazing editor in the world, besides being like frighteningly good at display type. Look up the story “O Madonna Had a Farm,” Fashion of the Times, Feb. 24, 2002.)”

“Andy is a true wordsmith, though her French pronunciation is terrible. She loves her son, Max, more than anything in the world and she’s probably tickled that he’s finally getting married. Oh, and when she says she is losing her memory, it’s a lie. She never had it!”

We will have a champagne toast for her on Friday at 3 p.m. outsider her office.

***

Joe Sexton, Sports editor for the Times, on Sports columnist George Vecsey:

December 15, 2011 – Sports of The Times; Man for The Times

Joe Sexton writes: Sometimes you sit at the screen and freeze — intimidated, suddenly suspicious of your talent for expression. That’s how I feel right now, because I simply don’t possess the gifts capable of paying adequate tribute to George
Vecsey.

So, I’ll take it one word at a time:

Passionate.
Curious.
Honorable.
Pioneering.
Reliable.
Angry.
Mischievous.
Clever.
Unstoppable.
Principled.
Worldly.
Forgiving.
Available.
Learned.
Devoted.
Eloquent.
Versatile.
New Yorker.

Okay, I’m loosening up a bit here. Seriously, George Vecsey, who will glide like a soccer striker into something like semi-retirement from The New York Times this week, has been a model Timesman for more than four decades, a journalist of range, a columnist of confidence and purpose and modesty, too, an author of books of real scholarship and total daring, a colleague of warmth and loyalty. He has been everywhere on this planet in pursuit of stories or columns, and always, at every stop, in the service of dialogue and debate and something quite like enlightenment. He and I are talking of ways to make sure his reporting and voice and values continue to appear in our pages, and I have no doubt we will in the new year devise a plan that excites him and reassures his many fans. He’s keeping his e-mail. He still has the keys to the joint. He knows he has friends for life
here.

His courage, though, will be what sticks with me. He wrote the Sports of The Times column for 30 years. I know he loved every minute of it, or many more minutes than not. But damn, that’s some kind of glorious grind, a run of ideas and inspiration and deadline calm and “What’s My Next Column?” panic, and plain personal fortitude and personal patience. An astonishing accomplishment in bravery alone.

He has my thanks; he has the admiration of this institution; I am sure he has more affection among his compatriots than he could even guess at, or that most humans could hope for.

George, in a column that will run Saturday, will reflect on all that. And it’ll be a hell of a lot better written than this. But, I can tell you, no more heartfelt.

Joe

***

Jodi Rudoren, Education editor for the Times, on Education reporter Sam Dillon:

December 15, 2011 - A New Course

Sam Dillon, the longtime dean of the education desk and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is taking the buyout. Read more in
this note from Jodi Rudoren.

Sam joined The Times in 1992 from the Miami Herald. He immediately tackled one of the paper’s most difficult and demanding beats, the New York City public schools — his first story, which ran on the front page, noted that local schools were marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World with “skepticism” and “contempt.” Sent to Mexico City a few years later, he left behind a source list that has been passed down through generations of local schools reporters. In Mexico, of course, he shared the 1997 Pulitzer in International Reporting for penetrating investigative stories on what the jury described as “the corrosive effect of drug corruption.”

It was, in some sense, a reprise — in 1987, Sam was part of a Herald team that won in National Reporting for “exclusive and persistent coverage of the Iran-Contra affair.” At the Herald, Sam had been posted in San Salvador, Managua and Rio. At The Times, upon returning from Mexico, he spent nine years traveling to schools across the country — including in Rock River, Wyo., where he told the story of Cozy Hollow Elementary, a school comprised of a single teacher and a single student.

It is difficult to imagine the education desk without Sam, the stalwart, sober voice with the exhaustive source and story list, the intricate understanding of policy and sophisticated sense of politics. Sam is the consummate professional, a generous colleague who never tires of welcoming newbies, devoted to getting the story behind the story, and to getting it right. The week before he decided on the buyout was Sam at his best: On Tuesday he led the newspaper with an enterprising, data-driven look at the explosion of students registered for free lunch programs around the country, and on Saturday he turned
an under-the-radar announcement by the Obama administration into a front-page news piece about a shift in affirmative action policy. He complained neither that the first one sat in the queue for a couple of weeks nor that the second one was technically on someone else’s beat and he had to turn it around late on a Friday afternoon; he did both sharply, succinctly, and with his signature dry wit.

A German major at the University of Minnesota, Sam plans to study the language further at NYU starting in January, and to spend some time in Berlin later in 2012. The author of two well-received books, on the Contras and on Mexico, we hope to see Sam’s byline appear from time to time as a freelancer.

Please join us Friday at 5:15 to toast his many accomplishments, by the education pod on the Port Authority side of the 3rd floor.

Jodi

***