Retiring legendary Kansas journalist will be missed

Tuesday evening will see the end of an incredible era in Kansas journalism when Larry Hatteberg signs off the 10 p.m. KAKE-TV broadcast.

Hatteberg spent 51 years at KAKE. He’s held nearly every position in the newsroom, including serving as news director in the 1980s. He announced his retirement from KAKE on Nov. 10.

His most popular stories probably came in the form of “Hatteberg’s People,” his weekly feature stories on Kansas people. Hatteberg featured hundreds of people during the segments, from a man who lived in the ground for 30 years to a woman who paints the sunrise every day.

Aside from his weekly feature stories, Hatteberg is also one of only two journalists to speak with BTK serial killer Dennis Rader. Rader called Hatteberg shortly after his arrest, and they talked for 20 minutes. In an interview with KAKE’s Jemelle Holopirek, Hatteberg said Rader was the one person he’s interviewed who he felt had no soul.

“I felt it,” Hatteberg said. “You could just feel it. I’ve never had that feeling before.”

As someone who works in the news business, I understand that his retirement from KAKE means a huge void will appear in Kansas journalism.

I also count myself as a highly lucky journalist who has learned from Hatteberg, both in the classroom setting and professionally.

This summer, he came to a class I was taking to give us tips on storytelling. The biggest takeaway from his talk was just to listen to the people journalists interview.

“That’s what the world doesn’t have enough of anymore, at least in our business, is people who just listen,” Hatteberg said to the class.

About a month and a half later, I contacted him at KAKE to request an interview about the life and career of former Wichita State faculty member and longtime journalist, Randy Brown, who died July 23. I met with Hatteberg for about 15 minutes at the studio.

When we finished, he thanked me in person for such an easy interview. Later, he sent me an email after the story had been published, saying how impressed he was by the quality of the story and letting me know I have a future in journalism. That praise meant the world to me.

On behalf of all Kansas journalists, I thank Hatteberg for his incredible service to Kansas journalism. Not only will his stories be missed, but he will be, as well.

In his own words, he is not retiring. He is just using the time he would spend working to focus on what he loves most: still photography and video. And, of course, spending more time with his wife and daughters without the pressures of a news deadline.

Best of luck, Larry.