The last week of February was catastrophic for old journalism majors such as me. Pulaski's Giles Free Press published its last edition, Denver's Rocky Mountain News stopped the presses two months short of its 150th birthday, and legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey's microphone fell silent.
I discovered "Uncle Paul" (as Nashville's WKDF used to call him), in the late 70s via his 5-minute TV editorials and his nationally-syndicated newspaper column in the Nashville Banner. As the decades rolled on, when my schedule permitted, I enjoyed our "noontime visit" through his radio newscast.
Harvey seemed so timeless that some of us were in denial about his obituary. He scrupulously advertised only products that he had personally tested, so we halfway suspected a ruse. Surely one day soon he would pop up on the air and announce, "Shady Lawn Cemetery is stub-born about crabgrass control."
We'll never forget how Harvey's broadcasts were marked by his staccato delivery, trademark phrases ("half a hundred hurting" was the Harvey equivalent of "50 wounded"), and enough pregnant pauses to accommodate octuplets.
Many eulogies lauded Harvey as a "broadcasting pioneer." Of course he wasn't a pioneer in the truest sense. If he had been, he would have bought the airwaves from the Native Americans for $24 worth of trinkets and then broadcast public service announcements about the unfortunate smallpox epidemic.
Harvey received many accolades. He was Salesman of the Year, Commentator of the Year, Person of the Year, American of the Year, and Inventor of the Year. And by "inventor of the year," I mean he actually invented the year -- and had a hand in devising the "jiffy" and "two shakes."
I envied Harvey's boundless optimism. He could find the silver lining in any situation. ("Hello, fellow Americans. The aliens from Alpha Centauri have completed their devastation of human civilization. On a positive note, a single American farmer can now feed the entire world population. No, wait... he just dissolved into protoplasmic ooze.")
Harvey held tenaciously to old-fashioned American values such as hard work, family and community service, but he was able to evolve. For instance, he performed an "about face" and urged President Nixon to get us out of Vietnam. And he came to believe that our nuclear arsenal should be employed under only the direst of circumstances, such as the SECOND time the snot-nosed kid refused to pull up his trousers and turn his baseball cap the right way!
The very program title "Paul Harvey News And Comment" said a lot about Harvey; he admitted to having opinions. This is in stark contrast to the "journalists" who will deny to the death any political slant or agenda. ("Are these so-called phases of the moon caused by man-made global warming? Only time will tell.")
The pages of life turn almost as quickly as the pages of Harvey's scripts. One day he was here and the next day he had crossed into the Great Unknown to cover The Rest of The Story.
For what it's worth, I have often criticized editorial cartoonists for being so presumptuous as to depict the afterlife activities of celebrities. Please excuse the hypocrisy if I now ponder the possibility of Harvey being on a cloud somewhere cajoling, "Yes, but the harps would sound so much better through Bose Acoustic Wave speakers..."
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