Happy 90th, Phil Ritzenberg!


Our friend and colleague Phil Ritzenberg celebrates his 90th birthday June 22. Phil holds the unique distinction of being the only person to ever serve as the Society for News Design’s president for two years. “His editorial and organizational skills insured SND’s growth while gaining respect from the journalistic community,” recalls fellow board member and SND co-founder, Robert Lockwood. We marked Robert’s 85th recently, but he’s quick to point out: “Phil is still five years ahead of me.” 

“It’s rewarding to see how SND has become an essential part of journalism and its members,” noted Lockwood, the Society’s first president (1979).

A portrait of Phil painted by Robert Lockwood when he left journalism.

Phil proudly displays a rare copy of SND’s first annual won at the silent auction in SND Louisville. (TIM FRANK PHOTO)

After serving his two-year term as president, Phil continued to be involved in SND for many years. In fact, he has been called on again and again to essentially be SND’s esteemed statesman/historian, delivering great reminders of how fast this field has changed, and how far it’s come. Perhaps one of his best lessons came at the Society’s 35th annual workshop in Louisville when he spoke of the past — and the future.  

POSING PRESIDENTIALLY: Former SND presidents in 2004 — Svanke Bostrom, Lucie Lacava, Richard Curtis, Nanette Bisher, Tony Majeri and Phil Ritzenberg (STEVE DORSEY PHOTO)

After graduating from Western Reserve University, Phil was a Fulbright scholar. He then served as an intelligence officer in the US Navy before resuming work in his true passion — journalism. His career spanned almost 60 years as an editor, designer, and publisher. He’s designed some 50 newspapers and magazines across North America. Among the familiar names benefitting from Phil’s expertise were The Cleveland Press, the New York Daily News, where he was the first at a major American newspaper to hold a senior editorial position with responsibility for design during a 15-year tenure, The Jewish Week (11 years) where he transformed a failing paper into one with the third largest circulation in America, as well as the New York World-Telegram & Sun and the World Journal Tribune. 

Phil’s wife, Edna, of 65 years, was a school teacher for nearly 30 years. For several years Edna served as a docent at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. She currently moderates book club sessions at four libraries and three private groups, leading discussions on about 60 books per year. As Phil describes it, her readers “follow her to various book clubs like groupies follow a rock band.” 

In 2008, Phil was honored with SND’s Lifetime Achievement Award at SND Las Vegas, as an innovator and a tireless volunteer for the Society and designers. He has been a behind-the-scenes leader, helping found SND 30 years prior. He rose from a copy boy for the Cleveland Press in the early 1950s to be Assistant Managing Editor for Design at the New York Daily News, one of the first such management roles at a major U.S. newspaper.

Phil speaks at SND NYC, 2018 (STEVE DORSEY PHOTO)

Phil Ritzenberg presented Lou Silverstein with the SND Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 in Phoenix. When Silverstein was AME at The New York Times, Ritzenberg was his across-town colleague as AME at the New York Daily News. His memorable presentation (link)

Phillip Ritzenberg, SND’s only two-term president, is a newspaper design consultant and a veteran of almost 60 years in journalism as an editor, publisher, and designer.

About Steve Dorsey

@Gannett VP innovation. Boards: @INMAorg, @SND. He was the 2011 president of the Society; 2015 Lifetime Award recipient. Dad to Fiona; partner to @paprgrl76. Relocated Detroiter. Tigers fan. Designer. Editor. SU grad.