The death of Paul Harvey over the weekend deprives the world of one of its best-known and respected news commentators.
Passing away at his winter home in Arizona, the 90-year-old Harvey afforded radio listeners a new slant on radio journalism since the 1940s. He got his start at the age of 14 on radio station KVOO in Tulsa, OK. From there his distinct voice carried him to new heights in Chicago, and ultimately to national prominence in 1951.
This writer first became aware of Harvey in 1948. It occurred while I was enrolled in a radio news writing course at Baylor University. The professor, Bernie Helton, had heard Harvey on radio. Helton had taped Harvey’s voice on what was then known as a wire recorder.
Helton had us listen to Harvey’s news presentation. We also listened and studied the style of other notable commentators - Walter Winchell, Gabriel Heater and Raymond Graham Swing.
Each of these personalities used different approaches in presenting news. Winchell with his telegraph key sounding off with the dots and dashes of the Morse Code. He would begin with “Hello Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. Let’s go to press…”
Gabriel Heater’s fame came during World War II, when he would often exclaim, “Ah, there’s good news tonight.” This statement would come during the darkest days of the war when things were falling apart in Europe, and Japan was having a field day in the Pacific. Heater would find tidbits of stories that would offer good news to the American radio listener.
Raymond Graham Swing’s style was more laid back without the fanfare used by Heater and Winchell.
Harvey was different with his presentation. After he had covered the major news stories, he would say - “Now, page 2.” His most favorite expression was “The Rest of the Story,” which came into prominence in 1974. This phrase would come as a climax to a story about an individual’s life or event - “… and now you know the rest of the story.”
At the peak of his career, Harvey’s estimated listening audience topped 24 million. He was heard over 1,200 radio stations. He always displayed a positive presentation, and one of his favorite quotes was, “Tomorrow is always better than today.”
The beginning statement in his news presentation was different - “Hello Americans. This is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news.”
Perhaps his signing off statement will be most missed - “Paul Harvey (pause) Good Day.”
Paul Harvey made his mark in radio journalism, and he will be missed. Perhaps his son, Paul Harvey Jr., best described his dad’s death with these words, “… millions have lost a friend.”
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.