Occasionally, you learn something just engenders that spontaneous “Awwwwww”. I had just such a moment this morning.
I opened up the paper, and read that Paul Harvey had passed away.
Paul Harvey was part of of my growing up, as well as my early broadcasting career. “Paul Harvey News and Comment” came on the air at noon on WBIW … the local radio station in Bedford, Indiana. Long before I worked there, I remember dad coming home for lunch from the Carl Furst Stone Company office, and would sit in the driveway and listen to Paul Harvey. The program lasted 15 minutes, and we never saw dad for lunch before 12:15.
An unabashed conservative, Paul Harvey offered personal opinions laced in with the news. “News and Comment” gave him carte blanche to tell you what he thought, and he wasn’t shy about doing so.
Paul Harvey coined or popularized such phrases as ‘Reaganomics” and ‘Skyjacker”. I recall during the Arab oil embargo Harvey championed an idea he called “GROWPEC”. If Arab countries were going to withhold oil, he reasoned, why shouldn’t the US withhold food? Could we do without oil longer than desert kingdoms could do without food? The idea never gained any traction, but to a kid growing up in the Midwest, it seemed to make sense.
Harvey was the master of the poetic pause. In an industry where silence is anathema, Paul Harvey could just stop in the middle of a sentence for dramatic effect ………….. and then move on.
Harvey is credited with practically creating the modern radio news business from whole cloth. He worked for ABC for more 50 years, his only employee. His last 10 year contract had two years to run when he died this week. It was worth $100 (m) million. He traveled in private jets and limousines. And I think it’s fair to say he inspired a generation of journalists.
He always read his own commercials … which no straight news person would do but the “commentary” imprimatur allowed him to get away with it. And he reportedly only took long-term contracts for products he actually used. I can still hear him talk about Bose sound systems.
For the first 10 or 15 years of my radio career, “Paul Harvey News and Comment” … and “The Rest of the Story”, were part of my day. I haven’t listened to him for years, to be honest, but still, the news this morning made me pause. Part of that was the passing of an icon of an industry that is in a time of tremendous upheaval … some would say in the process of passing its self. And part of it too is the passing of someone who had been there my entire life. Anyone who has 50 years in his wake will pause when a childhood icon shows up in the obituaries … a reminder that none of us gets a pass.
There are only a few who can truly said to be icons in the industry … and I’m not talking Howard Stern. In fact, I could probably be roundly chastised for mentioning that name in this post. Sorry. So, Auf Widersehen, Paul Harvey. Thank you for your contributions to journalism, and radio in general. Or perhaps …. I should say ….. more …. ap–pro—pre—ate—ly ……..