Seymour Topping (born December 11, 1921) is an American writer best known for his long association with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent and editor. Since 2002, he has served as the San Paolo Professor Emeritus of International Journalism at Columbia University.
Topping was born in the Harlem district of New York City on December 11, 1921 and grew up in the outer boroughs of Queens and The Bronx, where he attended secondary school. He was married to photojournalist, documentary filmmaker, and author Audrey Ronning Topping (the daughter of Canadian diplomat Chester Ronning) on November 10, 1948; they had five children. Since 1967, they have resided in Scarsdale, New York. In October 2015, the Toppings were predeceased by a daughter, Susan.
After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism (B.J. '43) and subsequent military service as an infantry officer in the Pacific during World War II, he joined the Associated Press in 1948 as a foreign correspondent in China and Southeast Asia. He joined The New York Times Company in 1959; over the next thirty-four years, he held positions such as chief correspondent in both Moscow and Southeast Asia, foreign editor, assistant managing editor (1969-1976), deputy managing editor (1976) and managing editor (1977-1987) of The New York Times. Following the reorientation of his duties toward the Times Company's regional publications at the behest of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger in 1985, Topping was appointed director of editorial development for The New York Times Company in 1986; in this capacity, he "focused exclusively on improving the journalistic quality of the regional papers." He left the Times Company in 1993 to administer the Pulitzer Prizes as the nonvoting secretary of the Pulitzer Prize Board; from 1994 until his retirement in 2002, he was also affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism as the San Paolo Professor of International Journalism.
During his career, Topping covered historical events all over the world including the Chinese Revolution and the French Indochina War, and he reported from countries and regions including China, Vietnam, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Tibet, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, South Africa, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador.
He has also served in various administrative capacities, including President of the International Advisory Board of the School of Journalism at Tsinghua University, President of Emeritus Professors In Columbia, President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1992-1993), and Chairman of the ASNE's Committee on International Communication. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, the Century Association, and the National Committee on United States-China Relations.
Topping is the author of the books. On the Front Lines of the Cold War: An American Correspondent's Journal from the Chinese Civil War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam (Louisiana State University Press, 2010), Journey Between Two Chinas, The Peking Letter: A Novel of the Chinese Civil War, and Fatal Crossroads: A Novel of Vietnam 1945 (based partly on the experiences of OSS officer A. Peter Dewey). Some of his articles and those of his wife make up part of the book The New York Times Report from Red China.
- Topping, Seymour (2005). Fatal Crossroads: A novel of Vietnam, 1945. White Plains, NY: Signature Books. ISBN 978-1891936692. OCLC 56599576.