Martin Arnold, Former Times Journalist, Dies at 84
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: June 5, 2013
Martin Arnold, a former reporter, editor and columnist for The New York Times whose assignments took him to the invasion of the Dominican Republic, the mountains of the Yukon, the capital of 1960s hippie culture and the corridors of the publishing world, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 84.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son Dr. Mark Arnold said.
In a 40-year career with the paper, Mr. Arnold was an editor for The New York Times Magazine, oversaw The Times’s coverage of the news media and, beginning in October 1997, wrote “Making Books,” a column about the publishing industry. His last — “No. 212,” he wrote — appeared in March 2003.
As a reporter, Mr. Arnold was the quintessential generalist in an era before specialty beats. On one assignment, he traveled with the circus; on another, he explored municipal corruption in New York City, earning a George Polk Award in 1968 for his reporting. He wrote about racial unrest in Brooklyn, Mafia wars and the rise of Malcolm X.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, he tracked down the probation officers who had tried to help Lee Harvey Oswald when he was a troubled teenager living with his mother in the Bronx.
In 1965, Mr. Arnold covered Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s ascent of Mount Kennedy, a 13,900-foot peak in the Yukon named in the president’s honor. In 1967, Mr. Arnold spent time living in Haight-Ashbury, the San Francisco neighborhood at the heart of hippie culture in America.
When Marines landed in the Dominican Republic in 1965 during a period of political unrest, Mr. Arnold was sent to a war zone for the first time, and his dispatches conveyed the scene through the eyes of a self-possessed New Yorker:
“The United States Marines have Howitzers on the front lawn and a heliport on the polo field,” he wrote standing outside a luxury hotel, “and hundreds of refugees sleep nightly amid the mirrored columns of the lobby, where Ginger Rogers might dance at midnight if only someone would clean up the mess.”
He was born Martin Katske on May 14, 1929, in Manhattan to Arnold and Evelyn Katske, and raised on Long Island. After his father’s death, his mother changed the family name to Arnold. Martin and a younger brother, William, both adopted it.
While still in high school, Marty, as he was known, was a copy boy at The Times before dropping out of school to enlist in the Army in 1945. He earned his high school diploma in the military and a bachelor’s degree from what was then Adelphi College in Garden City, on Long Island. He was a reporter for Newsday and The New York Herald Tribune before joining the reporting staff of The Times in 1959.
In addition to his son Mark, Mr. Arnold is survived by another son, Christopher; his brother, William; and two grandsons. His marriage to Irmgard Arnold ended in divorce in the early 1980s.
After retiring, Mr. Arnold wrote a series of essays, “Traditions of The Times,” for the newspaper’s employee Web page, in which he described the days of typewriters, white shirts and neckties, and overflowing ashtrays and how the newsroom had changed, becoming more racially diverse, more female and more electronic.
His last “Making Books” column was a paean to the relationship between writers and readers. “What should be remembered is that books are the adventure,” he wrote, “not the making of books,” then cited Emerson’s observation, “ ’Tis the good reader that makes the good book.”
“This column has not been for the few hundred in the publishing industry — who often haven’t liked it — but for that good reader,” Mr. Arnold wrote. “I know a woman, who happens to be a writer, who always carries a book with her wherever she goes. This column was written for readers like her.”