Eugene Leslie "Gene" Roberts, Jr. (born June 15, 1932) is an American journalist and professor of journalism. He has been a national editor of The New York Times, executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1972 to 1990, and managing editor of The New York Times from 1994 to 1997. Roberts is most known for presiding over The Inquirer's "Golden Age", a time in which the newspaper was given increased freedom and resources, won 17 Pulitzer Prizes in 18 years, displaced The Philadelphia Bulletin as the city's "paper of record", and was considered to be Knight Ridder's crown jewel as a profitable enterprise and an influential regional paper.
Roberts was born in Pikeville in the Goldsboro, North Carolina Metropolitan Area. He grew up in North Carolina and worked for newspapers in Goldsboro, N.C.; Norfolk, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Detroit. He covered the Kennedy Assassination in Dallas for the Detroit Free Press and subsequently covered the Civil Rights Movement as a correspondent for The New York Times, where he also served as Saigon bureau chief in 1968 during the Vietnam War. After serving as national editor at The Times from 1969 to 1972, he was hired by John S. Knight to head The Inquirer. He retired in 1990 and returned to the Times as managing editor from 1994 to 1998.
He is on the board of directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists and served five years as its chairman; he has also served as chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the International Press Institute, and the Board Of Visitors of the School of Communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Roberts is widely viewed by his peers as among the most influential late 20th-century editors of daily newspapers in large American cities.. He is credited with reviving The Inquirer and leading it from a second-place daily to one of the best regional newspapers in the country. Largely, he did it by recruiting young, talented journalists and giving them a free hand both in time and space to write compelling investigative stories under the tutelage of senior editors. Such nationally known writers as Mark Bowden (Black Hawk Down) and Richard Ben Cramer (What It Takes: The Way to the White House) worked at The Inquirer. Perhaps the most famous and longest lasting investigative team ever — Jim Steele and Don Barlett — flourished under Roberts.
The Inquirer had never won any Pulitzer Prize (established 1917) before Roberts became executive editor but regularly won them under his leadership.
Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for History recognizing their book The Race Beat as the year's best published in the U.S. In it, Roberts and Klibanoff chronicled the civil rights struggle in America and the role the press played in bringing it to the forefront. The book's major contributions were an analysis of Gunnar Myrdal and Ralph Bunche's 1944 treatise, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, which had explained the problem of racial inequality and its possible resolution, and a close examination of the contribution of the black press to the Civil Rights Movement.
Roberts was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the state of North Carolina on January 30, 2015.
Roberts earned an Associate degree from Mars Hill College in North Carolina. He went on to receive his B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1954 and was later a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.