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RIP Paul Harvey

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By See-Dubya  •  February 28, 2009 09:21 PM

(Post by guest-blogger emeritus See-Dubya)

One of the great voices of authentic heartland America fell silent today. Paul Harvey was doing nationwide conservative talk radio for decades before anyone thought of it as conservative talk radio. Everybody recognizes his distinctive, quirky voice with the…….odd pauses and offbeat emphases, but his success was about far more than his distinctive diction.

Paul Harvey put news out there that no other outlet touched. His Paul Harvey News and Comment scoured the wires for random stuff–and ideologically inconvenient stuff– you just didn’t hear on the Big Three mainstream TV news, and crammed it all in to crisp five minute chunks, complete with terse commentary and the occasional wry thwack of sarcasm–and he still had time for the inevitable personalized pitches for Buicks and the Bose Acoustic Wave Radio. Here’s what he had to say about his advertisers:

“I can’t look down on the commercial sponsors of these broadcasts,” he told CBS in 1988. “Too often they have very, very important messages to put across. Without advertising in this country, my goodness, we’d still be in this country what Russia mostly still is: a nation of bearded cyclists with b.o.”

Zing. He was always like that. Paul Harvey invented blogging; he just did his blogging on the radio.

His other program was the famous two-minute cliffhanger, “The Rest of the Story”. What a great and simple concept. The title itself gives away the game: the news you hear is only a scratch on the surface of reality, which has a roomy, spacious Buick Roadmaster trunk full of connections and ironies the network talking heads only hint at. The media isn’t giving you enough of the story, Paul told us, which is something we’d all suspected all along: more is going on out there than they let on.

His radio show wasn’t particularly ideological–you could tell he leaned right but it was mainly through the choice of stories and headlines he picked out. He also had a syndicated column back in the day that my state paper carried, and he was a rock-ribbed Middle American (Tulsa native, in fact) social and fiscal conservative with a heart of gold, a deep love of country, and no illusions about the stakes of foreign policy. He was a Reaganesque thinker, as well as a Reaganesque communicator.

One more thing: back when Fred Thompson was just flirting with running for President, one of the things that excited me the most about his candidacy was his ABC radio addresses he gave while sitting in for Paul Harvey. I thought that was a politically brilliant move that really showcased Fred’s strengths–authentic, no-BS Heartland conservatism. I wasn’t the only one–I kind of trace the groundswell of interest in Thompson back to his time broadcasting from Paul Harvey’s chair, and likewise the deflation of the Thompson bubble to the time he left it.

Anyway, Paul Harvey: innovator, inspiration, and a great American. R.I.P.
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MORE: Lileks has Paul Harvey audio from 1968. It’s a bit of a letdown…but you can’t help but listen to the end.

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(Post written by guest-blogger emeritus See-Dubya. Opinions are my own, and I wrote the post on my own time and equipment.)

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