Larry Wissbeck 1939-2014
Larry Wissbeck, a western broadcasting legend who reported from the Pacific Northwest, Pacific Coast, and Nevada, died July 17 in Colorado.
Wissbeck was raised in central Nevada, in the now-abandoned mining camp of Nevada Scheelite and Fallon. He recalled watching a 1950s atomic test flash from Scheelite.
He worked as a reporter, field producer, commentator, photographer and in other roles at the Fallon Eagle Standard, KTVN and KOLO television stations in Reno, KGW television in Portland, KRON television in San Francisco, and also served as chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada and town board member and mayor pro tem of Paonia, Colorado.
At KRON and KTVN, he was a member of what some now characterize as the strongest news teams of those operations' histories.
In Nevada, he is particularly well known for the reports he filed from KTVN's Northern Nevada Bureau. He traveled the state in a small Courier pickup with a camper on the back, bringing colorful human-interest stories back to Reno from places like Tuscarora or Baker. He once returned to Nevada Scheelite to report on its abandoned state. The term “Northern Nevada” was defined flexibly, as Wissbeck reported from Laughlin to the Oregon border.
Ed Pearce, who as a news director hired him at two different stations and gave him the Northern Nevada Bureau, once noted that Wissbeck did well in the human interest reports because he fit right in when he showed up in small county settings. He was instantly at home in a dance hall in McDermitt or a bar in Tonopah.
He also handled hard news, including a long-running series of investigative pieces on the bankruptcy of a Reno investment firm and bombings of the U.S. Capitol in 1983 and Harvey's Hotel Casino at Lake Tahoe in 1980. His diverse skills showed up when, as one of a two-person bureau covering the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco for KTVN in 1984, he repaired equipment himself when it failed.
He owned and lived at Hardscrabble Farm on the bank of the Truckee River in Lockwood. Peggy Phillip, who began her television career at KTVN, and her family were tenants on the farm for a time. She went on to become a distinguished television news director at stations in Kansas City, Baltimore, Syracuse and Memphis and is now a managing editor in Miami. She said she learned a lot from Wissbeck.
“Larry seemed to have all the answers from storytelling to Nevada history, animal husbandry to art,” she said after hearing of his death. “I was fascinated with his knowledge and loved to listen to his tales of TV news coverage in San Francisco and Portland. … I sometimes felt like a sponge around him, trying to absorb all the great qualities that made him such a complex human being.”
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