“My operating philosophy,” he recalls, “was to let the reporter write the story in his or her own fashion as long as it told the news with clarity and didn’t violate Times standards.” Self-effacement, it turned out, did not earn him promotions. Phelps ultimately moved to The Boston Globe, in the days before it was bought by the Times, and there ended his journalism career. The author provides a valuable window into the paper’s great feuds and crises (his retelling of the Times’s near-miss on Watergate is a particular treat) without making himself the center of the drama. Indeed, he frequently concedes that those who soared past him did a better job than he would have. God and the Editor is an afterthought to a long and honorable working life; the book came out as Phelps was on the cusp of ninety years old.


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James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.