Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul Harvey ... Good Night

For about ten years now, my friend Frank O. Pinion has had a running joke on his KTRS show in which he confuses me with Paul Harvey, whose news commentary is also heard on that station. I suppose the joke is over now that Harvey has died after nine decades on this planet and seven decades on the air.

There are plenty of places to find out about his accomplishments, awards, and affiliates, so I won't reproduce them here. I never counted myself as a Harvey fan -- he was way too conservative and religious for my taste -- but I respected the man's work nonetheless, and his loss will be felt at many levels of the radio business.

Paul Harvey was heard by more people than just about anyone else on American radio. His six-day-a-week commentaries and "the rest of the story" were mainstays of the news and talk formats. It is a huge loss for ABC (where Harvey was singularly responsible for 10% of ABC Radio's annual income) and the clients for whom his live commercial endorsements were among the best ever. Some of those companies became successes and household names entirely because of Harvey featuring them on Page Two.

After his wife Angel died and Paul got sick last year, ABC Radio tried various substitutes -- Fred Thompson did it for awhile before leaving for his ill-fated presidential campaign, veteran radio guys like Gil Gross, Doug Limerick, and Ron Chapman did extended tours as fill-ins -- but none of them had that unique delivery and style that was Paul Harvey. Even his son, Paul Harvey Jr., who wrote much of his father's material for years, did a stint behind the microphone, but sounded like nothing more than a pale imitation of dad.

Now ABC is faced with finding someone to take on the position permanently, but they're likely to run into a lot of resistance from programmers who had kept Harvey on the air only because of who he was and the history behind his name. Some Harvey affiliates had already dropped his features when he wasn't there regularly, and other syndicators will surely race to offer other commentators, yet it's likely that most stations will drop the entire concept and simply fill the void with more of their regular programming.

For them, there will be no Rest Of The Story.