December 05th, 2023
L&T Opinions Page

earl wattL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Larry began his career at the paper as a “cub reporter” as he liked to say, when he was 50.

It may have seemed a bit strange for me, the 28-year-old publisher and Larry the 50-year-old reporter, to have found such common ground, but being that Larry was a bit of an aging rebel and I was more of an old soul, we found a happy place somewhere in the middle.

It didn’t take us long to find a common vision for how we would produce the newspaper. It was our intention to reflect the values of our community, not try to define what they should be.

After a little over a year as a “cub reporter,” Larry stepped in to the role of the managing editor, and he took his job seriously. Larry wasn’t the type of guy who was looking for a paycheck. He was living for a purpose, and he found that in journalism.

Larry was the model conservative in a world of liberals. When he and I went to the state newspaper convention, we were definitely the minority, but Larry never let political differences get in his way of making a friend. And we have many across the state despite having very different Opinion pages.

Again, ours reflects the community rather than try to tell them what they should think.

The first car on the lot every morning was Larry’s, and deadline wasn’t just a suggestion to him. It was carved in stone.

His staff knew it, too. For all his upbeat quips and smiley disposition, Larry had high expectations, and that’s what he got.

And he got it on time.

Only Pancake Day was allowed to break the rule, and that’s because the race took place at 11:55 a.m. Deadline was important, but not more important than Liberal’s biggest day.

And Larry lived for Liberal’s biggest days.

He celebrated with the athletic teams, with a new business coming to town, a ribbon cutting, a local person’s promotion — anything that could celebrate our community.

He shared our philosophy that Suzy winning the spelling bee may not mean anything to the rest of the world, but it was important to Suzy’s family here, and we would celebrate it.

While other papers started to suffer the revenue declines due to social media and the Internet, they cut back on local coverage, consolidating services out of town. But Larry and I were committed to local news coverage, and he continued that tradition throughout his career.

We believed we should be able to tell our community’s story better than anyone else could tell theirs, and the plaques and awards showed that we were doing the right thing.

Larry never shied away from the tough stories.

To the contrary, he took them head on. He believed in doing what was right regardless of the consequences. 

When someone came to the office to share their story, Larry gave them a voice when others ignored them.

Larry also did his research. When questions arose around the land sale of the old softball fields, Larry delivered the facts, and he did it the way he did every story — he shared the truth.

Larry was committed to the highest journalistic standards, and he had a gift for writing in a way the people could understand.

Even his most ardent critics never had to question a sentence he wrote. They were crystal clear.

His Opinion column continued until just a couple of months ago when his health did not allow him to keep the weekly schedule. And with every column he wrote it would be filled with references to documents that supported his cause.

Was he a partisan? Absolutely. But Larry knew the difference between an opinion column on Page 4 and a news story on Page 1. Politics never played on the front page or the news section, not then, not now. News should never be a political tool. Nothing embarrassed Larry more than to watch the mainstream media become a political tool for the left while claiming to be objective journalists.

As serious as he took his politics, he never took life too seriously. His most common advice to me was to get out of the office more often.

We worked together, went fishing together, we continued to eat together on a regular basis, and I always came out to his annual wild game feed.

I remember the phone call when Larry was being wheeled in to emergency heart surgery when he told me, “I love you like a brother.”

There was no higher compliment between two guys from different generations who found a common purpose in keeping the people informed. He was dedicated to the craft.

One of his running jokes when asked how he was doing was, “I’m just trying to keep off of Page 2.”

Well, Larry made Page 2 today, but not before living a life well lived.

Thank you for everything, Larry.