Wednesday, January 10, 2007

'Are you a writer or a reporter?'

I first ran across Larry in the fall of 2001, early in my freshman year, when my editors asked me to call the firehouse to inquire about a campus fire. He got on the phone, and I explained I was a writer for The Daily Princetonian. “Are you a writer or a reporter?” he asked, and without letting me answer, declared: “You’re a reporter!” I came away from the phone call a little terrified, but with the lesson that working on the ‘Prince’ was just about getting the facts straight.

A year later — by now I knew Larry well — my editors sent me to Princeton Medical Center to write about a chemical spill. I rode down Witherspoon Street on my bike, stopping only at an intersection where Larry was directing traffic. He urged me on my way. The next day, my editor told me that Larry said he liked my story, which gave me a burst of pride.

I knew Larry best from my time as editor-in-chief during the 2004-05 year, almost two decades after he officially retired. He was still making those infamous visits to the office to criticize and correct our mistakes. Yet those two moments from my freshman and sophomore years are most vivid in my memory of Larry: He had an irascible personality, but a gentle soul. He knew when a sharp-tongued barb would put me in my place and when a compliment would give me the encouragement I needed.

During my year as editor, I was subject to especially stinging assault from Larry for trying to convert the tabloid into a color broadsheet. Yet over time, he saw the staff was excited by the change. Though we were fundamentally altering his baby — the 11 inch by 17 inch reminder of years spent toiling late at night with hot lead — he was proud of us for achieving the new paper.

Larry knew he was respected by generations of alumni — more than six decades of them in the end — but it was always clear his goal was simple. He wanted us to succeed. Not just at the Prince, but in Princeton, and through our lives.

— Zachary Goldfarb ’05, editor-in-chief emeritus


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