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The New York Times’ new boss-to-be literally wrote the plan to help it catch up in digital

But A.G. Sulzberger will find that running the company requires the help of the two cousins he beat for the job.

A.G. Sulzberger, deputy publisher New York Times
Todd Heisler / New York Times

The bake off between family members to determine who will run the New York Times is over. The paper picked Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the 36-year-old son of current publisher Arthur Sulzberger, to eventually lead the company.

A.G., as he’s known, was appointed deputy publisher Wednesday, the first step toward replacing his father, who is 65 years old. The Times has made no indication of when the elder Sulzberger will retire, but for context, his father, also named Arthur Sulzberger, stepped down at that age.

The repeating names may suggest a certain Gilded Age anachronism, but A.G. is considered a real heavyweight in the newsroom — a smart and humble editor who’s also very astute about the difficult state of the news business. He was, in fact, the principal author of the now-famous Innovation Report, a 90-plus page critique of the Times’ nearly passive pace in adopting digital publishing.

In many ways, A.G.’s appointment was already determined when that report made the rounds, rattling legacy editors while animating those calling for a far more robust online presence. The memo also demonstrated his willingness to rankle Times management, even though it was ultimately seen as necessary.

But what’s especially interesting about the bake off this time around are the other family members being considered: A.G.’s cousins Sam Dolnick and David Perpich, both of whom are also very well liked and respected in the newsroom and on the business side.

NYT Mag Live: A Special Voyages Edition
New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein (l) and Sam Dolnick, associate editor New York Times
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for New York Times

Dolnick is an award-winning journalist who has led the paper’s efforts into podcasting and VR. Perpich works on the business side and was a big part of the company’s push into digital subscriptions, essentially a new business that has revived the paper’s prospects.

A.G.’s elevation doesn’t put him in isolation. He will need the help of Dolnick and Perpich in running the business, especially at a time when all publishers, online or legacy, are facing difficult conditions.

That suggests the future publisher of the Times won’t have the same autonomy previous ones have enjoyed. Sources say the cousins get along well, meaning a good foundation exists for a tacit triumvirate. There are certainly enough challenges facing the Times for all of them to manage.

Here’s a podcast we did in September with Dolnick and Associate Editor Cliff Levy, both of whom are helping to lead the Times’ digital strategy:

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