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From the Field

Larry LaMotte had a huge impact on my life. But, before I tell you how, I need to tell you how he lost his. While on a family vacation in Florida, Larry's 13 year old son Ryan got caught up in rough water in the Gulf of Mexico. Larry and another man on the beach raced into the water to save him. Ryan managed to get to shore safely. Larry didn't. He drowned. The good samaritan was rushed to a local hospital, but he died too.

Larry died trying to save his son's life. That was Sunday, June 8th.

In the days since that awful Sunday, I've done some serious reflecting. It's no secret that I looked up to Larry as someone who made a difference in my life and career. Ever since I started this website a couple of years ago, Larry's name has been part of my mission statement. My exact words "LaMotte was remarkably encouraging and supportive. A great boss." But, he was more than that.

In the 70s when I was in radio, he gave me an opportunity to be part of an exciting new all news station in North Texas. He moved me from Houston to Fort Worth. The guy treated me like a million bucks. It was a great job. He got me to do things I'd never consider doing in public. Get this -- he actually got me to do "singing traffic reports" from my mobile news unit every morning and I CAN'T SING A NOTE! But, maybe that's some of what made it all so much fun. Eventually, the station went to an all Spanish speaking format and Larry and I parted. As the 70s turned into the 80s Larry went to work for the upstart Cable News Network. He became CNN's LA Bureau Chief and, once again, offered me a job. He asked me if I'd like to be a correspondent for CNN. He brought me to LA, showed me the town ... gave me hope. It was a tough decision. I had no television experience to speak of and didn't know much about LA. Frankly, at the time, I found the place and the medium intimidating. But, Larry who could charm anyone convinced me that I could make the switch from radio to television and encouraged me as only he knew how to do it!

I packed my bags and headed West. The transition was tough, but now 22 years later I'm still working in television in Los Angeles, I'm in my third term on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, I'm in my 7th year as the Executive Producer of the LA Area Emmys, I'm President of The Associated Press Television Radio Association of California & Nevada and NONE OF THIS would have happened had I not taken Larry's offer; had I not believed in him so much as to move halfway across the country on a maybe -- a possibility that I could make the transition from radio to tv.

If Larry hadn't come along there's no telling what I'd be doing now or where I'd be doing it. Every time we make career changes, every time we relocate, it changes the future. Larry changed my future twice and as I look back it's been a hell of a past!

Larry was so influential to this one-time aspiring broadcaster that I've drawn on the LaMotte enthusiasm, so vividly sketched in my brain, in order to help others. 3 years ago, with the help of The Associated Press Television Radio Association and Pepperdine University, I founded APTRA Academy; a 2 day press boot camp every October to help reporter and anchor wannabes make tapes by creating mock news stories with the help of LA law enforcement and fire agencies. I've encouraged other on air journalists, photographers, editors and news managers to give up a couple of days and join in the mentoring effort and some LA stations have donated live trucks, video and editing equipment to help in the cause. There are students from this program that have jobs in television right now as a direct result of it.

Some final thoughts ...

Sandee and Larry LaMotte were married for 20 years. She was an editor at the CNN LA Bureau when Larry hired me and, like him, was very supportive and tried helping me wherever possible. Now, my heart and prayers go out to her and her children.

Our condolences go out to all of Larry's family including his brother Greg, another newsman who now works overseas with the Voice of America, but like Larry spent many years at CNN.

Larry LaMotte died trying to save his son. It's heartbreaking -- devastating to his family, but Larry was such an uplifting kind of guy, he'd probably want us to be that way too. I remember his smile. I remember his enthusiasm. I remember singing "Hooray for Hollywood" with him one day at the office; a bureau right in the heart of Hollywood at the corner of Sunset and Vine. I remember doing "singing traffic reports" with him on the radio, I remember the first CNN story he assigned to me; an interview with onetime Laker Bob McAdoo. The guy was twice my size -- the two shot was ludicrous - but, Larry didn't send me out on my own. He went with me. Somehow, there are things about Larry LaMotte that will always be with me and, for that, I'm thankful!