The Seltzer Way

Seltzer style: Impeccable dress, down-to-earth relations with staff

By Ray De Crane

Editor Seltzer was a sartorial perfectionist. Staff writers frequently commented how he would wear a different suit every day and often went longer than a month before wearing a suit a second time. A trademark of his was his flowing breast pocket kerchief. Invariably at holiday staff parties when the writers would put on skits, one of them would make a dramatic stage entrance with a breast pocket handkerchief flowing half-way down to his waist. Editor Seltzer would lead in the howls.

The boss wanted to know everything about his staff members. If there was sickness in the family, he wanted to know about it. If a new baby was expected, he wanted to be the first to hear about it. At Christmas time the children of every staff member up to the age of about 18 would receive a gift from Seltzer and his wife.

There was the time when the medical writer for the paper was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Shortly after the diagnosis the writer was unable to come to work anymore. Seltzer sent the writer, his wife and their two children to Arizona for a month, paying all their expenses. The ailing staff member was also kept on the payroll at full salary until his death more than a year later.

The boss was not an ivory tower editor. He loved being in the city room where the action was. When a big story was unfolding, he was always to be found lingering around the city desk or the national news editor's desk to observe the action first hand.

Even on a normal day he would sit at an empty desk in the city room, pull up a typewriter and pound away, preparing an editorial or one of his highly regarded LBS pieces.

This was before the days of computers and word processors. Like many newspapermen of his day, Seltzer never learned touch typing. He would sit before a Royal or Underwood typewriter and use the two-finger, hunt-and-peck system and go as fast as most touch typists.

Although most of the writers and sub editors adopted rolled-up shirt sleeves as the dress of the day, Seltzer was never seen around the city room minus his suit coat.

This must have irritated Frank Gibbons, a six-foot five, 250-pound sports writer, when the properly dressed editor was standing amidst a group of reporters joking and kibitzing. Gibbons picked up the 140-pound Seltzer, up-ended him, and lowered him into a tall, square wire-mesh waste basket partially filled with discarded newspapers. One who on rare occasions could swear like an infantry soldier, Seltzer issued an appropriate epithet and then joined in the hilarious laughter.

On those rare occasions when he had an open schedule at lunchtime, Seltzer would invite a small group of sub-editors to have lunch with him at the Union Club, the elite club for the town's movers and shakers. While he would encourage his invited staff members to order a steak or prime rib, he would always order a vegetable plate for himself. I can't recall ever seeing the man eat a piece of meat.

Following dessert he would order the waiter to bring a box of fine cigars to the table. Invariably, he would direct Managing Editor Harding Christ, an inveterate cigar smoker, to take the cigar box and its remaining contents to Christ's office.


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Last Updated November 2, 1998