A Lifetime on the Radio
By Marc Fisher
Marc Fisher, a Washington Post columnist, is a regular contributor to AJR.
PAUL HARVEY AURANDTwas first pushed toward a career in radio by his high school speech teacher, Isabel Ronan. When her protegé was 14, ``Miss Ronan walked me down to KVOO in Tulsa and boldly said, `This young man should be on the radio.' '' Harvey coaxed management into giving him a position in which he read some spots, played his guitar on the air and even presented an occasional newscast.
By the time he left the University of Tulsa, Harvey was launched on a stereotypically nomadic radio career, bouncing around the Midwest as a newscaster, announcer and station manager. He met his wife, Angel, at KXOK in St. Louis. After wartime service in the Army Air Corps, Harvey moved to Chicago and a show in which he sought to match returning GIs with new jobs. His newscasts for Chicago's WENR became the proving ground for his first national broadcasts, beginning in 1951 on the fledgling ABC network. In his early years, Harvey was not only a commentator and newsreader, but a reporter as well. In his first year on national radio, he won wide notice with a stunt in which he demonstrated the lax security at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois by breaching the fence around the federal atomic research facility. Harvey was arrested, but the grand jury couldn't find the outrage in the act and refused to indict. In the '50s, Harvey joined the McCarthyist bandwagon and won a reputation as a conservative voice of the heartland...the label that would win him a huge audience and a steady supply of sponsors. Even as radio shifted from a medium of block programs, in which listeners tuned in to hear a specific commentator, drama or music show, to one of formats, in which listeners picked a station according to its steady stream of one kind of music or talk, Harvey maintained his News and Comment as a service that could boost any station's ratings. ABC executives pigeonholed him as a voice of the American Midwest, West and South, but Harvey repeatedly proved popular even in the most cosmopolitan of big Eastern cities. He became a multimedia phenomenon, with daily commentaries on more than 300 TV stations and a column that appeared in more than 400 newspapers. On television, Harvey stood before a jumbo American flag, pronouncing his rightward-tilting news bits in his staccato radio style. A golf fanatic who says one of his favorite TV channels is The Golf Channel, Harvey says he has drifted through at least 50 hobbies over his years, from skiing to stamp collecting to model airplanes. Most recently, he thought he would take up sky diving. He jumped once; that, his wife says she told him, was quite enough. Harvey has also recorded several record albums, written numerous books and maintained an impressive presence on the lecture circuit, flying around the country in a Lear jet. One of his journeys took him back to Tulsa for a speaking engagement; his speech teacher was invited as a special guest. At the event, he says, ``Miss Ronan leaned over and said, `Now remember, Paul, stand tall and breathe from the diaphragm.' ''
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