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Frankel, Max

FRANKEL, MAX

FRANKEL, MAX (1930– ), U.S. journalist; one of the most influential journalists of the 20th century as editorial page editor and executive editor of The New York Times. Frankel was born in Gera, Germany, but he and his family were forced to leave Nazi Germany in 1938. They crossed into the Soviet Union, where Jacob Frankel, his father, was arrested on suspicion of being a German spy and was given the choice of Soviet citizenship or a sentence of hard labor in Siberia. Because the family's intention was to reach the United States, Jacob refused citizenship and was sent to Siberia. Mary Frankel and her son Max arrived in the United States in 1940 and settled in New York City, where Jacob joined them after the war. Max had decided on a journalism career by the time he entered Columbia College, where he became editor of The Spectator, the student newspaper, and campus correspondent for The Times. He graduated from Columbia as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the honorary society, in 1952 and earned a master's degree in American government from Columbia the following year.

Although he was hired as a full-time reporter for The New York Times in 1952, he served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955. Upon his return, he worked as a reporter and rewrite man. In 1956 he attracted notice with his quick and impressive article, capturing the desperation and drama of the sinking of the Italian ocean liner Andrea Dorea off Nantucket Lightship after a collision with the Swedish ship Stockholm. Later that year he was sent overseas to cover stories arising from the Polish and Hungarian uprisings against Communism. From 1957 to 1960 he was a correspondent based in Moscow, where he wrote memorably about the international piano competition won by Van Cliburn, an American. He also wrote a series of colorful articles on Siberia that were described in the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia as coming "quite close to objectivity." After returning to the Western Hemisphere, he covered the United Nations and the Caribbean area, including Cuba, for a year before moving to Washington in 1961 as diplomatic correspondent. He won the Overseas Press Club award for foreign reporting in 1965 and the following year became White House correspondent. From 1968 to 1973 Frankel was chief Washington correspondent and then bureau chief.

As chief of the Washington bureau, Frankel paid more attention to bureau management than his immediate predecessors, in addition to writing analyses of Washington and foreign affairs. He won the George Polk Memorial Award for "best daily newspaper interpretation" of foreign affairs in 1970, and in 1972 he accompanied President Richard M. *Nixon on his historic trip to China. He filed 24 stories and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for international reporting.

In Washington, Frankel was close to many high government officials, including Secretary of State Henry A. *Kissinger, but he resisted Kissinger's attempt to persuade him to suppress coverage of the American bombing of North Vietnam. In 1972, when some of his superiors and their lawyers at The Times balked at publication of the Pentagon Papers, the purloined Defense Department documents of the secret history of United States involvement in Vietnam, Frankel wrote a memorandum that helped change their minds. In the Times's successful defense of its publication of the papers before the United States Supreme Court, Frankel's memo was an important affidavit. But in contrast to its aggressive publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Washington bureau, under Frankel, lagged behind the Washington Post in its coverage of the Nixon administration's involvement in the Watergate scandal.

He moved to New York in 1976 to serve as Sunday editor when the newspaper's daily and Sunday staffs were merged. The Sunday edition then had a circulation of 1.4 million copies and accounted for half of the paper's annual advertising linage. As Sunday editor, he had control over the Book Review, the magazine, the Arts and Leisure and Travel sections. Frankel is credited with restyling and enlivening the Sunday edition.

He did similar restructuring when he became editorial page editor in 1977. He had a lighter and more pragmatic touch than his predecessor, John B. *Oakes, and was less doctrinaire. As editor, Frankel supervised 10 to 12 editorial writers and worked closely with the publisher, Arthur Ochs *Sulzberger, and then his son, Arthur Jr. In 1986, when A.M. *Rosenthal, nearing the mandatory retirement age of 65, stepped down as executive editor of The Times, the highest-ranking news position, Frankel succeeded him. Under Frankel's leadership, the Times retained its position in the top ranks of journalism, winning Pulitzer Prizes in each of his years at the helm. In 1994, when he was approaching 65, Frankel turned the reigns over the Joseph *Lelyveld, and became a columnist for the Times Sunday magazine, writing on communications and the media. After he relinquished the column, Frankel wrote several books, including a memoir, The Times of My Life and My Life With The Times in 1999, which was a bestseller, and High Noonin the Cold War: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 2004.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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