The Seattle Times’ Jerry Large is hanging up his columnist hat after 36 years. As part of his farewell, he sat down for a Facebook Live interview to discuss his career and take questions from readers.
The Seattle Times’ Jerry Large is hanging up his columnist hat after 36 years.
As part of his farewell, he sat down with his editor, Doreen Marchionni, to discuss his career and take questions from readers in a live interview on our Facebook page.
Large started out by talking about how he got into journalism. Some early encouragement from teachers helped, he said, including a particular English teacher who recommended him to work on the school paper.
Marchionni asked about Large’s relationship with his audience. It’s not necessarily a monolith, just “a big group of people out there,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re writing, you want to have specific people in mind that you’re trying to reach, and so I would do that.” After meeting so many different people over the decades, he said, “all of their experiences, all of their faces are sort of in my head and I think about that when I’m writing,” considering whether anyone’s experience or perspective is left out.
When writing about issues of race, police brutality and other sensitive subjects, Large said he tries to write for people “who have not had a lot of background in understanding racial dynamics” in addition to people who’ve been really immersed in that. “I want, at the end, to come up with something that all of them can access, that all of them can relate to,” he said, adding that this approach makes it easier “to get to something that more closely resembles what’s true, or the many truths that there are.”
Large has lived in the Seattle area since 1981. In that time, he has seen a lot of change in the community and at The Times. The city is now a wealthy tech center, forcing people who can’t afford it out to the margins of town or to other parts of King County, affecting their access to services, jobs, transportation and more, he said. Technology has affected newspapers, too, drying up the advertising dollars that used to keep newsrooms afloat and leading to cuts in newsroom staffs across the country over the past decade.
“Newspapers are essential for helping the community communicate with itself, because not everybody’s going to talk with everybody else,” Large said. “We facilitate those conversations. We help people get to know all facets of their community. And to the degree that we are restricted in our ability to do that, there are going to be things missing from the community conversation.”
Seattle Times video editor Lauren Frohne, who was watching the interview live, commented to ask what advice Large has for young journalists. “We will always be needed,” he answered, explaining that storytelling has been important throughout human history. Although journalism’s business models are facing some growing pains, Large remained optimistic. “It’s not going to be my generation that comes up with the answers. Most likely, it will be yours.”
In addition to questions, some readers simply left fond farewell messages in the comment thread.
“Jerry, I’ve read all your columns — never skip yours. I will miss your perspective and humanity,” Deborah Nissen wrote. “Enjoy retirement!”
“Thank you for your common sense and observations,” Janet Sundal Anderson wrote. “I will really miss your column. Good luck.”
“Your column has been an insightful way to understand tough issues,” Carreen Nordling Rubenkonig wrote. “Thank you for your careful and deliberate approach to writing.”
“You have been the columnist that helped me see issues from a more diverse perspective. And you have always been kind while educating your readers,” Sue Gerba wrote. “Thank you for that and please consider your efforts a success.”
As the interview wrapped up, Marchionni ended on a personal note: “I just want to tell you what an incredible privilege it has been to edit you and to work with you.”
Large said he’d miss Marchionni too, and that he’d miss readers, especially the nice letters they send that keep him going.
Large’s parting words: “I encourage you to keep reading The Times, keep subscribing, and keep growing and thinking. That’s the best part of being a human being, is being able to do that.”