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Setting the standard: Journal’s longtime editor made a difference inside, outside the newsroom

As you read on Page One, Kent Walz is retiring Tuesday as the Journal’s editor-in-chief, a position he has held since 1995. Prior to that, he served as assistant editor, starting at the Journal in 1985.

We are pleased he has agreed to continue to play a key role with the Journal as senior editor.

But I couldn’t let the change occur without a note of thanks and well-deserved tip of the hat.

Kent’s leadership the past three decades has led to transformative changes both inside and outside the Journal.

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At the Journal, Kent oversaw the development of the state’s largest daily into a truly statewide newspaper with regional influence and, more recently, into New Mexico’s premiere source for online news on its website, www.abqjournal.com.

He also has overseen a top-notch investigative team of reporters that has delved into issues ranging from the underworld of drug dealing to opiate addiction to child abuse to government corruption to a recent series on the state’s elder guardianship program.

As a lawyer, he was able to navigate the challenges of producing hard-hitting stories while ensuring the Journal adhered to legal and ethical standards.

With Kent at the helm, the Journal has been recognized over and over for its excellent work. It has received numerous awards in the Best of the West, New Mexico Press Association, Inland Press Association, Top of the Rockies contests and others.

As part of one Journal investigation, a reporter for the newspaper was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for stories that led to a national recall of the over-the-counter dietary supplement, L-Tryptophan.

Kent also oversaw the Journal’s editorial board, which time and again produced insightful editorials read and often cited by our community’s leaders. More than once, a proposal, action or announcement was changed immediately after the Journal’s position was outlined on the editorial page.

But Kent’s influence goes far beyond the newsroom.

He was one of the founders of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, the open government advocacy group formed in 1990 to boost transparency and access to government at all levels – goals that benefit all New Mexicans. In October 2015, the foundation honored Kent with its Dixon Lifetime Achievement Award as it celebrated its 25th anniversary.

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Kent is also a member of the Bench-Bar-Media Committee, an organization of judges, lawyers and journalists that provides a forum for discussions of issues that affect all three groups.

Kent is a former president of the New Mexico Press Association and currently serves on the board of directors of United Way of Central New Mexico.

He often serves as a debate and forum moderator for different events and organizations, and for many years has worked with the Moriarty High School’s honors civics team as it prepares for the “We the People” competition. This year’s team won state and is headed to nationals in Washington, D.C.

In his new role as senior editor, Kent will continue to work with the major Journal investigative projects, continue his outreach roles with such groups as United Way and Bench-Bar-Media, and remain active on the Journal’s editorial board. And we will continue to tap his legal expertise when needed in making newsroom decisions.

When my brother, former Journal publisher T.H. Lang, appointed Kent as assistant editor in June 1985, the Journal was in the midst of expanding its newspaper operations. It currently has bureaus in Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Washington, D.C.

At the time, Kent had already built an impressive career in journalism as an Associated Press news editor in charge of bureaus in Omaha, Neb., Portland, Ore., and Albuquerque.

He started his career in news as editor of the Silver City Daily Press and Lordsburg Liberal from 1972-73, and then moved to Albuquerque to work for the AP as he pursued a law degree from the University of New Mexico. He was admitted to the bar in 1976 and continues as a member.

Now he says he is ready to take time to explore other adventures, while remaining active at the Journal. But, as I said, I couldn’t let the change occur without a public thank you for all he has brought to this newspaper, which has been in my family since 1926, and to the state of New Mexico.


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