Monday, February 06, 2006

Good Day!

I'm guessing one of the more interesting personnel decisions...among the many made by the new management team at KTRS...has been the decision to continue, or not, the daily appearances by the venerable Paul Harvey. This thought occurred to me as I listened to some of his mid-day show...Paul Harvey News and Comment... while headed out for lunch recently.

Mr. Harvey...and if any broadcaster deserves the respect of being called "Mr.", it is he... sounded every bit his 87 years-of-age. He did not sound well. I have no way of knowing if he's ailing, but usually the way someone sounds while speaking is a pretty good indicator of well-being. Mr. Harvey sounded very old...very tired.. and at times confused. That's not like him.

Of course, Paul Harvey Aurandt (real name) has already been through one long stretch of illness which put his career in jeopardy. Many thought he was too ill to continue living...let alone broadcasting. This was 4 or 5 years ago when I was employed in the newsroom at KTRS. We continually fielded calls from listeners wondering where their favorite broadcaster was, and how he was doing. We were pretty much kept in the dark by the moguls at ABC Radio, so we had few answers. All we knew is what we heard through the standard network channels...that he was having voice trouble...and would be back when it cleared up. The rumors had him gravely ill, and likely not to return. As I recall, he was away from his microphone for the better part of a year. I don't know how much of the gravely ill stuff was based in fact.

But, come back he did. And he's been going pretty strong for the last number of years while defying his advanced age. Why he still gets up in the middle of the night and heads for the Chicago radio station where he writes and reads every day only he can tell you. It must have something to do with love of the work, and feeling like he's "on a mission".

Harvey claims to have been raised in radio newsrooms. He worked in a Tulsa radio station while in college. And, during the 40's, spent some time at KXOK in St. Louis where he met his wife...Angel he calls her...Lynne (Cooper) Harvey. It's an honor to me that we both spent time on the same AM 630 waves... even though in different eras. He moved on to Chicago where he started doing the ABC Network broadcasts that he's become famous for in the 1950's. Mr. Harvey's resume' of radio accomplishments is too long to detail here...but, you'll remember that he was presented with the Presidental Medal of Freedom in November by President Bush in recognition of his outstanding career.

Back to the KTRS decision. I'm guessing that the recent effort to energize and re-tool the on-air product included a heated discussion or two about Mr. Harvey's role in the programming picture. I would like to have been a "fly on the wall". I don't have the numbers, but I would bet that his listenership is heavily weighted toward the over-50 crowd....maybe even more heavily weighted to the over-65 population.

New PD, Al Brady Law, could not have wanted to include a 15 minute segment of Paul Harvey's senior-targeted news product in his mid-day picture. He probably wouldn't have wanted even the 5-minute morning News and Comment, or The Rest of the Story shows either, even though these programs are some of the few such locally "sell-able" products left on network radio. And, even though Mr. Harvey's listeners are some of the most set-in-their-ways, fiercely loyal, and predictable in radio history.

The whole emphasis now at "The Big 550" appears to be toward attracting the highly prized 25-39 segment of the 25-54 demo. Paul Harvey, as wonderful as he may be as a writer and deliverer of his product, doesn't do that. This makes me think that KTRS's contract to carry ABC news includes language that guarantees air time for the Paul Harvey offerings. I seem to remember an announcement within the last year or so that KTRS had re-upped it's ABC contract which included Paul Harvey news. This would have been well before the big ownership change and shift of the Cardinals to AM-550. The programming decision makers there now may be stuck with Mr. Harvey, while making believe that they are happy. They already have shifted the 15-minute segment to 11:45am from straight-up 12-noon. The current set-up will likely be the case as long as the KTRS/ABC marriage continues....or as long as Mr. Harvey is around. It wouldn't have been a strong PR move to dump him now after all of the other "relationship with the listener" issues the station has to deal with in the wake of firing most of the on-air staff.

I hope, after hearing him in recent days, that Mr. Harvey's health allows him to continue for a while.

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