Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

November 26, 2013

Breaking News: No end in sight

Corsicana — Biblical instruction is clear: We are not to grow weary in well-doing.

Across generations, it’s easier said than done. On life’s landscape today, “bad-doing” holds the upper hand.

As to weariness, Americans are bone-tired of “breaking news” barrages. Such openings are common to virtually all electronic newscasts.

“Rocket surgery” — a term coined by a befuddled news guy — isn’t necessary to predict that “breaking news” prepares us for an imposing list of “broken down” topics. Broken are dreams, spirits, hearts, contracts and promises, to name a few. Further, our national debt grimly reminds us that we are “broke” financially.

Oh, I left out at least one important topic — broken pocketbooks. They are inevitable results of indebtedness so easily incurred these days at all levels. We’ve learned to say “charge it” far too casually.

I am reminded of the man in a bank, his right arm extended, with index and little fingers stiffened upward. “I didn’t know you went to UT,” a friend said. “I didn’t. This is simply a good way to declare Chapter XI.”

Lord Byron, a British poet, stoutly supported the importance of truth. He’s remembered for writing, “Without or with offense to friends or foes, I sketch your world exactly as it goes.”

Today, some news folks place highest priority on “getting it first.” Most of us settle for news “approximately as it goes.”

Yearning, a frequent pastime in retirement, often centers on memories of yesteryear radio — when we listened on purpose. We dared not miss radio programs that would be topics of conversation the next morning on the school bus. Sometimes the volume was purposely kept low, hopeful to avoid parental warnings about “running the battry down.” Yep, for the adults we knew, it was a two-syllabled word.

Before Neilsen Ratings, Arbitrons and other tools measuring media impact, two broadcast news personalities stood out.

They spanned some 75 years with daily commentaries that were balanced, accurate, hopeful and carefully prioritized.

One was Lowell Thomas — arguably the most versatile media personality in the history of communications. The other who I feel was greatly influenced by Thomas was the inimitable Paul Harvey. Both were gentle giants, humble by all measures. They had hope in their hearts that spilled out in their words. Rarely did they have “breaking news.” Instead, they began — and ended — newscasts with gentle encouragement. Thomas began newscasts with, “Good evening, everybody,” ending with, “So long, until tomorrow.” With Harvey, it was “Hello, Americans” and “Good day!”

Their humility was obvious and their impact great as their followers quoted them across the U.S. — Thomas largely from the 1930s through the 1970s, Harvey from the 1950s into the 2000s.

Both were network regulars, and listeners felt cheated if they happened to miss a broadcast.

The humility thing — and their commitment to a healthy work ethic — began early for both men. Thomas washed dishes in a Colorado gold-mining town; Harvey swept the floors of a Tulsa radio station.

Both were multi-faceted, worthy of Googling. I revisit their websites from time to time, if only to re-capture details of Thomas’ on-the-air “bloopers.” When he made ‘em, he led the laughter.

I heard Thomas in the mid-1970s at a dinner in Fort Worth. He was the featured speaker. Even at age 85, his personality sparkled, and he was humble beyond belief.

I managed to scrunch into his crowded elevator at evening’s end. Someone mentioned how gratified he must have been to be the world’s foremost radio newsman for many years.

“I never placed too much stock in that,” Thomas responded. “My newscast came on immediately before “Amos N’ Andy,” and nobody was going to be late tuning in for them!”

During part  of his career, he was employed by Sunoco; the company purchased network airtime for his broadcast. Later, Thomas himself was a network owner.

Harvey was “joined at the hip” with sponsors, too, joking about being happy to “put their money where his mouth is.”

Thomas lived to be almost 90, dying in 1981; Harvey was 91 upon his death in 2009. Would that someone pick up their batons and win Americans’ hearts the way they did. Archie Bunker said it well: “Those were the days!”.

—————

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at newbury@speakerdoc.com. His website is www.speakerdoc.com. Follow him on Twitter: @donnewbury.

 

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