Sulzberger graduated from the Horace Mann School in 1909 and Columbia College in 1913, and married Iphigene Bertha Ochs in 1917. In 1918 he began working at the Times, and became publisher when his father-in-law, Adolph Ochs, the previous Times publisher, died in 1935. In 1929, he founded Columbia's original Jewish Advisory Board and served on the board of what became Columbia-Barnard Hillel for many years. He served as a University trustee from 1944 to 1959 and is honored with a floor at the journalism school. He also served as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1939 to 1957. In 1954, Sulzberger received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."
Sulzberger broadened the Times’s use of background reporting, pictures, and feature articles, and expanded its sections. He supervised the development of facsimile transmission for photographs and built the Times radio station, WQXR, into a leading vehicle for news and music. Under Sulzberger the Times began to publish editions in Paris and Los Angeles with remote-control typesetting machines.
He once famously stated, "I believe in an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."
Sulzberger is also credited with the quote: "We journalists tell the public which way the cat is jumping. The public will take care of the cat."
Sulzberger, a practicing Jew, has been accused by Laurel Leff of deliberately burying accounts of Nazi atrocities against Jews in the back pages of the Times. She alleges that Sulzberger went out of his way to play down special victimhood of Jews and withheld support for specific rescue programs for European Jews.