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The Leader Among Us: A Tribute

The Leader Among Us: A Tribute
Times Union, Albany, New York

Robert J. Danzig steps down after 47 years of molding newspapers of influence and excellence. Robert J. Danzig, who joined this newspaper 47 years ago as an office boy and who went on to serve as publisher and, for the last two decades, as vice president and general manager of newspapers for the Hearst Corp. in New York City, relinquished his corporate duties last week. We say relinquished rather than retired because, as anyone who has known or worked for Bob Danzig realizes, he defies easy description. Though he will no longer toil in the corporate suite, he has too much energy, and too much to contribute, to sit on the sidelines. He now devotes his time and talents to a range of other activities as an adjunct professor at several colleges, as the author of a new book on leadership, as an inspirational speaker who can hold an audience spellbound. Above all, he’ll help mold the leaders of tomorrow by spending several days a month directing the Hearst Corp. Management Institute at Northwestern University.

He leaves the corporate world at a time when success is often measured by callous standards, bottom-line profits, and personal enrichment. A time when success through selfishness fosters an attitude of indifference toward the dislocations that families suffer when workers are displaced by the global competition. It was to our good fortune in Albany, and to all Hearst newspapers throughout the country, that Bob Danzig defined success in higher terms. For all his 47 years in the newspaper business, he prized excellence above all else and demanded it of every newspaper he oversaw and every employee who worked for him. He detested office politics as much as he loathed complacency. He insisted on editorial independence, and integrity, despite threats of economic reprisals from politicians and advertisers. And he agonized over every decision that might cause hardship for those he valued above all else: The people who produce Hearst papers all across the country.

An out-of-work Bob Danzig bounded into our midst in 1950, wearing an eager look and an oversized hat that, at the suggestion of a friend, was meant to disguise his youth. Whatever the interviewer saw in him that day, his energy, his drive, his talent, persuaded her to hire him as a clerk in the circulation department. The door was opened, and that was all the opportunity he needed. He spent the next two decades excelling at one job after another at the Times Union and the Knickerbocker News-Union Star.

In 1977, Mr. Danzig moved on to become general manager of Hearst Newspapers in New York City. Over the years, he helped turn them into the robust publications that serve as watch guards of their communities. Yet he never forgot his roots. He still has a soft spot for Albany and for all those who helped him along the way. He has fondness for his alma mater, Siena College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English, with honors, taking classes at night.

There’s no telling how many lives Bob Danzig touched in his years in Albany and New York. But to judge by his own definition of what a newspaper is, the numbers must be staggering. What is that definition? It’s not dollars or even prestige, although Hearst newspapers have distinguished themselves time and again under his leadership. No, it’s what a newspaper means to ordinary people, the classified ad that helps launch a small business, the feature story that helps reunite a family, the fund drive that helps the elderly who have no place else to turn.

We shall miss Bob Danzig’s daily presence in our midst. But we have the comfort of knowing that for nearly a half century, all of us at the Times Union in particular, and Hearst newspapers in general, have shared a common assurance that if ever there were only one call to be made in time of need or distress, it would be to the man at the top who began at the bottom.