x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Radio pioneer who woke up America

For millions of listeners across rural America, the voice of Paul Harvey was the first thing they heard each day.

The broadcasting pioneer Paul Harvey poses at the Hall of Fame in Chicago.
The broadcasting pioneer Paul Harvey poses at the Hall of Fame in Chicago.

For millions of listeners across rural America, the voice of Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer, was the first thing they heard each day. Before dawn, over a bowl of oatmeal, Harvey would comb the news wires for stories that would appeal to his core audience, the ordinary, suburban folk of America, which numbered more than 24 million at the peak of his career. Broadcast on more than 1,200 radio stations, he was able to command a US$30,000 (Dh110,000) speaker's fee. He voiced numerous advertisements, and gave personal endorsements to those products he liked.

Paul Harvey Aurandt was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a family of fundamentalist preachers. As a boy he made his own radio sets and while at high school frequented the local radio station until the manager finally hired him. Together with his wife Lynne as producer, Harvey launched his News and Comment show on ABC Radio Networks in 1951. He continued broadcasting for the next 58 years, with only a few brief spells off air. The show, introduced with his clarion call of "Stand by for news!", was a combination of current affairs, homespun wisdom and humour, delivered in a distinctive staccato rhythm, interrupted by disconcertingly long pauses which jolted the drifting listener back to attention most effectively.

From 1976, he presented The Rest of the Story, on which his son Paul Harvey Junior worked as a writer and researcher. The show followed the life of a famous person chronologically without revealing their identity until the end. It was a hugely popular addition to his portfolio. Harvey was never afraid to take an unpopular position. A conservative, he was an unrepentant supporter of McCarthyism in the 1950s.

"Like skinny neck ties," his friend Pat Aufderheide wrote in a profile of the broadcaster in 1983, "his views just went in and out of style", but someone somewhere was always tuning in to listen. In 1990, Harvey was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame and in 2005 received the presidential Medal of Freedom from George W Bush. Born Sept 14, 1918. Died Feb 28, 2009. * The National