America lost an original over the weekend with the passing of Paul Harvey.
Whether you agree with his conservative politics or not, he was a master at the art of communication. Five words won’t work if you can convey the thought in four. Paul Harvey’s style was about clarity, storytelling and the art of the pause-for-effect.
It was fascinating to talk with him in person. In the mid 1980s, he paid a visit to WGST Newsradio to speak to a local group and deliver his 8:30am and 12:30pm broadcasts. He arrived before dawn and had use of the news director’s office to prepare his shows. As I recall, he wore a smock and had his own formula for gathering wire copy and newspaper clippings…arranging them in columns that related to each section of the broadcast.
Prior to going on the air, he warmed up with a comical series of vocal exercises. Imagine how “teedle-tee-teedle-tee-tee…woof one two three…” and so forth sounded in that rich voice. He sat while he read the newscast that emanated from our cluttered studio (which he called “handsome” on the air), in a voice so strong he almost didn’t need a mic.
Because of the way our engineer had to feed it to New York, Harvey’s voice boomed at full volume through speakers in the studio next door and down the hallways. But that didn’t impact his concentration.
After the 8:30am broadcast, he agreed to carve out 10 minutes for me to interview him for the show I did on WGST’s radio network. He answered in staccato phrases just as he talked on the air. “Where did you get started in broadcasting?” “Richard, I was a young man of 13 years when I first stepped into the offices of KVOO in Tulsa, Oklahoma…”) Wish I still had the tape: it disappeared shortly afterward.
From 1951 to 2009, Paul Harvey gave us a lesson in how to communicate. So straightforward…and yet so difficult.
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