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Sad ending to ‘the rest of the story’

By Staff | Mar 6, 2009

He may be gone, but it’s not going to be easy to forget his friendly and familiar voice.

Those distinctively halting pauses of Paul Harvey’s delivery were unmistakable. That’s because there was no one steadier or more consistent for decades, right up until the last few years. He was arguably the most popular radio commentator of all time.

You know the rest of the story.

Harvey, whose weekday newscasts and commentaries aired nationally for 58 years, died Saturday in Arizona. He was 90.

Known for his resonant voice and trademark delivery of “The Rest of the Story,” Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951.

Paul Harvey was a conservative who didn’t feel the need to rip viciously into those who believed differently from himself. Try finding that on the airwaves today.

I vividly remember riding around in the tractor with my dad and listening to Paul Harvey. With my mom at work, I was too young to stay at home alone, so I’d climb up into the tractor cab and ride up and down the rough and bumpy landscape. Paul Harvey’s report was the highlight of the trip. Even if I was too young to completely understand it all, no one injected a newscast with such thrilling vigor and optimism as Paul Harvey. It was as if you could tell he loved what he did. He was glad to be there, and you were happy to have the chance to catch some of that enthusiasm.

As I got older and would listen to his report on the radio now and then I realized what an icon he really was. America trusted Paul Harvey. When you were listening to “The Rest of the Story,” you just had this distinct yet strange feeling that the whole country was listening right along with you. It turns out that much of the country was listening right along with you, since estimates of his audiences were around 24 million at his peak. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint Harvey’s peak since he had such a long and sustained career.

Listening to Paul Harvey gave us a sense of unity, like he was part of the family. It was like sitting down to listen to your grandpa tell you a story every day.

One thing that distinguished Harvey from many of his peers is he had no problem peppering his copy with ads, reading commercial copy and moving product. He’d read it right along with the news. It was so intertwined that you sometimes didn’t know if it was an ad or part of the story. Most recently I recall him endorsing Citrical vitamin supplements and Bose wave radios.

But part of his appeal to listeners was that he wasn’t a traditional newsman. He did things just a little differently, and you respected him for that. Listeners weren’t even fazed by the fact that he pushed products in the middle of his broadcasts. We trusted him enough to know that if he said it was a good product, by golly, it must be.

There isn’t much on the radio, now or ever, that you’d listen to so intently with his trademark mix of surprises, superlatives, bold statements and seemingly small details that, woven together, made up a great Paul Harvey broadcast. He told us the story behind the story – the part everyone wanted and needed to hear.

The flagship of “Paul Harvey News and Comment” was the four-page noon newscast. He’d announce each page with that distinct booming voice of his. I recall feeling a sense of sadness when he reached page four, knowing it would soon be over.

Now, sadly, it is over. He is a type of broadcaster who has gone away and is not coming back.

Good day, old friend.

Mullally is a Tribune writer.

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