Columnist gets feel for community

Executive editorOctober 28, 2012 

An anonymous caller left a message on the publisher’s phone line Wednesday. She was offering a compliment – “you know, the opposite of a complaint” – about Larry LaRue’s front page column, “When mental health is a laughing matter.”

She had called LaRue directly and just knew he would answer the phone. When he didn’t, she called the main phone to say she found his column refreshing. She asked that someone to go over and “give Larry a big hug.”

LaRue did a fine job covering the Seattle Mariners for 29 years, but that’s the first hug request for him that I know of. I expect there will be more with the kind of column he envisions writing for the local news sections of The News Tribune.

Wednesday’s column, about a group of people learning to be stand-up comedians telling jokes about their own mental illness, was his first. He plans to write three columns a week.

LaRue’s greatest strength on the Mariners beat was his storytelling. Imagine writing 162 game stories during the course of a Major League Baseball season and trying to find a fresh angle. LaRue did it by treating each game as one of 162 chapters in an ongoing narrative about the team.

Now he’ll be writing more than 100 or so chapters a year in an ongoing narrative about Pierce County, specifically the people who live here. We have other reporters to write about the news, about the movers and shakers in our community. LaRue wants to write about the people behind the story of the day, about the interesting characters who live among us, about ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

In the three weeks since he wrapped up the Mariners’ season, LaRue has traversed the county, passing out his new business cards and compiling a list of the characters he’s found.

He’s getting acquainted with local people and places – in some cases, for the first time. Tacoma, for the most part, was a place LaRue drove through from his home in Gig Harbor to Sea-Tac Airport or to Safeco Field.

“Larry is determined to get the feel for the South Sound and has been racking up the miles from the Peninsula to Puyallup and points between,” said local news team leader Matt Misterek. “It’s already clear his ability to write compelling people stories doesn’t stop with elite athletes on a baseball diamond.”

If you have a column idea, call LaRue at 253-597-8638. Or email him at But don’t be surprised if he doesn’t reply immediately. He doesn’t expect to spend much time in the office. He has a lot of people to meet.


We recently published our first electronic book.

“Center of Detention” is a reprint of our five-part series by our City of Tacoma reporter, Lewis Kamb, and reporter Carol Smith of Investigate West. The two documented the building and expansion of the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats and the story of a local man processed there on an immigration violation.

This format is new for us but has become an increasingly popular way for newspapers to publish project stories or even full-length books.

You can buy the book at online bookstores for $2.99.

Our Washington Huskies beat writer, Todd Dybas, also has a new offering for iPhone or iPad users. His Huskies Football 2012 app includes stories, videos and audio from the coaches’ press conferences. It costs $2.99 as well.


I received several notes in response to my column two weeks ago about our decision to continue endorsing for president.

Some expressed appreciation, some suggested we quit doing it, others simply disagreed with our picks.

One reader, however, was of the mistaken impression that our corporate leaders dictate who we endorse.

“Politics in America these days is about the takeover of our government by the corporations, and you using your newspaper to endorse is a good example of the blatant use of their power to influence the vote,” he wrote.

I responded: “The McClatchy Corp., which owns this paper, has never – not once – tried to influence an editorial or endorsement published by this paper. In fact, they let us decide whether or not to endorse at all. This year, some McClatchy papers are endorsing for president, some are not.”

Feel free to disagree with our endorsement or the fact that we endorse, I wrote him, but you’ve got only the five members of the TNT editorial board to blame.

However you choose to vote, we encourage you to do so.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434

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