The death of Paul Harvey at the age of 90 reminds us of a bygone era, that of network radio, which was at its peak during World War II when millions of Americans gathered around their sets to hear Edward R. Murrow from London.
Harvey came along in the post-war period, and was a reliable cold warrior, until he broke with President Richard Nixon on the Vietnam War in 1970. What made Harvey famous, and rich, was his distinctive delivery and resonant baritone (Murrow succeeded in part because of similar qualities, although he was also a superior journalist).
If you remember Harvey, you recall his sign-on “Hello, Americans (pause) I’m Paul Harvey (pause) Stand by for News!” His staccato headlines were followed by a crisp, “Page Two,” which turned the newscast to some feature item, delivered with his masterful use of timing and pauses. Harvey’s sign-off was always, “Paul Harvey (pause) Good Day.”
Harvey was an icon of the conservative movement, but never in a mean-spirited way. Harvey in his prime was a crowd-pleaser. I recall seeing him in 1959, when I was a junior reporter for a semi-weekly paper in Springfield, Oregon. Looking for an interesting story, I covered a huge gun show in nearby Roseburg, and found Harvey as keynoter.
The audience, large and restive waiting for him to appear, was ready for what they knew he would deliver. Striding to the microphone, Harvey paused dramatically, and then leaned forward.
“Hello, Americans,” he boomed. He had them in his hand.