Zack is a Philadelphian through and through. Except for his service in Vietnam, he has spent his entire life in the Philadelphia community.
He grew up in West Philadelphia and graduated from Overbrook High School, where he committed the gross mistake of briefly occupying the gym locker that had once belonged to Wilt Chamberlain. It was firmly explained to him that the locker was a shrine that was not to be invaded. He has since been forgiven and in fact inducted into the Overbrook Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Zack graduated from Temple University in 1968, with a degree in political science. He volunteered for the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
After failing to make it as a political cartoonist, he entered journalism as a reporter at the Bucks County (PA) Courier Times. Zack joined the Daily News in 1971 and started covering government and politics a short time later. He had dealings with every mayor of Philadelphia since the legendary reformer Richardson Dilworth.
In 1973, he convinced then Mayor Frank Rizzo to take a polygraph test. Rizzo flunked the test. His image and his political career never truly recovered.
Zack became city editor of the newspaper in 1975, managing editor in 1977, executive editor in 1979 and the newspaper’s top editor in 1984. He also carried the title of executive vice president of former Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. which is now owned and operated by Philadelphia Media Holdings, LLC.
At the newspaper, Zack was responsible for the news and — for many of those years — the business operations of the newspaper. During his tenure, the newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes and was a finalist for a third. It also went from a large annual operating deficit to double-digit profitability, in large due to an amazing and talented staff.
He won the John S. Knight Gold Medal, the highest honor offered by Knight Ridder Inc., the owner of the Daily News and the second largest newspaper company in the country. Zack also received the 2005 Leadership Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
He made his mark in newspapers with bold campaigns aimed at making Philadelphia better – and particularly a ground-breaking series entitled “Rethinking Philadelphia.” Zack’s transition to editor-advocate, and ultimately to good-government crusader, was inspired by the life and violent death of his close friend, Russell Byers.
In early 2005, Zack announced he was leaving the newspaper business to pursue “a second act.” After a retirement of one week, he took the helm of the proud, but somewhat tired, Committee of Seventy. Whatever it is now, it is not tired. Zack has resurrected the Committee of Seventy and put it back in a position to have a positive impact on Philadelphia politics.
He is married to Deb Lock Stalberg, a horsewoman and former journalist. He has three children: Zane Lock Stalberg, who is named after the populist writer Zane Grey; Ilisa Stalberg and Erin Stalberg.
Zack’s favorite author is Graham Greene and his favorite movie is “Shane.” His favorite quote is from the inventor Robert Jarvik: “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. They make the impossible happen.”