Station Break

Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 3, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, March 3, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news, personalities and trends from the world of pop culture.

Today: R.I.P., Paul Harvey.

Farhi is a reporter in The Post's Style section, writing about media and popular culture. He's been watching TV and listening to the radio since "The Monkees" were in first run and Adam West was a star. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Los Angeles, Farhi had brief stints in the movie business (as an usher at the Picwood Theater), and in the auto industry (rental car lot guy) before devoting himself full-time to word processing. His car has 15 radio pre-sets and his cable system has 500 channels. He vows to use all of them for good instead of evil.

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A transcript follows.

Farhi is a reporter in The Post's Style section, writing about media and popular culture. He's been watching TV and listening to the radio since "The Monkees" were in first run and Adam West was a star. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Los Angeles, Farhi had brief stints in the movie business (as an usher at the Picwood Theater), and in the auto industry (rental car lot guy) before devoting himself full-time to word processing. His car has 15 radio pre-sets and his cable system has 500 channels. He vows to use all of them for good instead of evil.

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Paul Farhi: Greetings, all...Or should I say: "Hello, Americans!" I'll make this quick and clean: The late, great Paul Harvey was great because:

--That distinctive....Paul Harvey mastered--heck, fetishized--the pause. It was his signature. This is immortal: "Paul Harvey....[pause]....[pause]....[longer, even more absurd pause]...Good DAY!"

--Those pipes! No one sounded like Mr. H. Way into his 80s, his voice was still rich and resonant. A born broadcaster.

--The writing. Paul (helped by his wife Lynn and son Paul Jr.) wrote distinctively and well. He was a storyteller. He spun mesmerizing little yarns out of wire copy. Not just rip-and-read, but rip-re-write-and-read in a singular way. Who does this anymore?

--The longevity. Harvey's career spans the entire lifetimes of most Americans alive today; I don't remember listening to the radio when Paul Harvey wasn't on it. He started as a broadcaster in 1933. "The Rest of the Story"--his signature features--started in 1946. "Paul Harvey News and Comment" went on the air in 1951 and basically never left it. Harvey always seemed a great throwback to me; he connected me to what I thought of as radio's Golden Age (whatever and whenever that was). You imagined a guy in a room, cupping his ear, in front of an oversized RKO microphone. I sometimes thought of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Winchell. He was a bridge across time.

--The hucksterism. Harvey was a great shill. He was smarmy, sure, but you believed his smarminess. No one needs a $500 radio, no matter how often Paul touted Bose radios. But Harvey sure made it sound convincing. Bose got their money's worth.

--The politics. Not always defensible (Harvey was a McCarthy-ite, and I don't mean Gene). But at least those were his heartfelt views. Besides, I always enjoyed getting Harvey's cranky grandpa take on things, especially since I never had a cranky grandpa.

Anyway, R.I.P., Mr. Harvey.

And now for....Page Two!

Jimmy Fallon's new late-night show? Thought it would be terrible. And, well, it wasn't good, but it wasn't terrible, either. He was nervous and talked a little too much. And the comedy bits and monologue were lame--pale Letterman (blonde moms? lawnmower licking?) and pale Leno, respectively.

But first nights really don't count in late-night TV. Here's the real test: Don't watch him for, oh, another four, five weeks and then watch again. See if he gets better. He should. Last night's show is unsustainable as is. But you have to presume he'll get better.

As is, he's well ahead of where Conan O'Brien was at this point, tho admittedly that's not saying much. Kid has a future, I think...

And....Page Three!

Great moments in local TV weather hype last night: After trying, trying, trying to compare the relatively mild snowstorm to snow-a-geddon, Fox5's "team" coverage--defined as TWO reporters reporting, instead of one--flashed on a "warming" center in So. Maryland.

Image: Four empty cots, in a completely empty gym.

Message to Fox5 producers: Stay on message! Message: Chaos! Snow! Run for your lives!

All right, let's go to the phones...


Washington, D.C.: How does a hidebound ideologue like him get canonized? No more "page two," so what?

Paul Farhi: Really, was his "hidebound ideology" so awful? I never thought so. Gave me a different perspective. And unlike so much of talk radio, he never insisted I was an idiot because I might disagree with him.


Arlington, Va.: Some people, even Wikipedia, said that Paul Harvey was influenced by the sportscaster Bill Stern who, in my youth, had a radio program where he would spin out stories about people's early lives and end up with a line "That boy was" and it would be someone totally unguessable. Listening to Harvey tell us the "rest of the story" was very much in the Stern mold except, as Harvey occasionally noted, his stories were true and nobody could guarantee that Stern's were.

Paul Farhi: I've heard/read about the Bill Stern rip-off. I don't know because I've never heard Stern. But everyone is influenced by someone, so I don't think that disqualifies Paul from the Broadcasters Hall of the Gods...As for Harvey's stories, are you sure they were all true?


Washington, D.C.: Did you happen to see Jimmy Fallon's opening monologue on his first show?

He told a joke about the 16-year-old boy who was caught having sex with his 24-year-old female teacher. Fallon joked, 'It will take years of treatment to get the smile off his face.'

This is the same network whose 'To Catch a Predator' series exposed and ruined the lives of 24-year-old men who wanted to have sex with 16-year-old girls. But when it's a 16-year-old boy and a 24-year-old woman, it's funny.


Are they saying a 16-year-old boy has the capacity to consent to sex with a person of legal age, but a 16-year-old girl doesn't?

Are they saying a sex crime against a boy isn't really a crime?

What's with the double standard here?

Paul Farhi: It's called, um, "the double standard." I'm not endorsing it, I'm just sayin'. And I'm sayin' we have differing expectations for boys and girls.


Stand By For News!: Look, I'm as snarky as the next Post chatter, but I still looked for Paul Harvey News whenever I was in the car around noon. He was a giant, and we should mourn his parting. Now he can be with "Angel."

Paul Farhi: Interesting point about snark. Snarksters (like me) should have hated an old-schooler like Harvey. But I liked him BECAUSE he was so old school. Some people transcend our ability to snark them out, I guess.


Paul Harvey, RIP from 20615: You are the same age as me, so you probably remember the AM stations that used to stop transmitting at sunset. (Can you believe it, folks?).

My mom used to listen to a Country and Western station in Philadelphia in the '60's that ran Paul Harvey news and comment on a regular basis. I am in my 50s now, but I remember listening to PH...............Goooood DAY! when I was in elementary school (One comment I remember him discussing the ubiquitous bell bottom jeans). I was thinking that a little before he died when I heard his comments on the radio just lately.

He was the equivalent of Readers Digest for the radio...fluffy, good newsy, interesting, with a voice for radio and an ear for the audience.

As they say in Australia, Good on him. I am happy he has been able to do what he loved for so long and so successfully.

Paul Farhi: Well said!


Post Q...: Monkee Man:

I have a question about something I read in the Post today...and something I have seen in the past...

In the article about the shakeup of Cuba's leaders, I read the following:

"If Cuba was trying to send a strong message with the shakeup, it did so in the subtlest of ways: The official state media reported the leadership changes at the end of the midday news, following the weather and sports.

Nonetheless, it did not sit well with some Cubans, including Carmen Elizondo, 45, a housewife with three children who said she heard the announcement on the news. "Ay! It left me feeling cold," ...But retired worker Marta Jimenez, 65, was more optimistic. "People here are not used to change..."

Why do I care what Ms. Elizondo and Ms. Jimenez think about the shakeup? And why is it important to put opposing viewpoints in the paper. Seems like an artificial construct to me.

I'm just sayin'...

Paul Farhi: You don't understand why the reaction of ordinary Cubans to events in Cuba is newsworthy? Let me spell it out: Cuban restricts freedom of speech (and a few other freedoms, too). Hearing what ordinary Cubans think about their government is extraordinary. I'd love to read/hear more.


Alexandria, Va.: Please compare Paul Harvey's "ideology" with Rush Limbaugh's.

Paul Farhi: Far milder, subtler. Harvey was clearly conservative, but more so culturally, I think, than politically. Plus, he wasn't all about politics the way Rush is. Far different sort of take on things.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: I don't care so much about how Fallon did. How was Van Morrison?

Paul Farhi: He was fascinating to watch, actually. He sounds fantastic, but, boy, is he odd looking. Looks like a shrunken mushroom, and his nose appeared to a clay construction designed to replace the actual nose that fell off. Plus, he seemed at any moment ready to walk off the stage, mid-song.


Arlington, Va.: So Paul, there was a commercial on TV last night that made me think, I should write to Paul Farhi about this. But now I can't remember what it was.

What should I do?

Paul Farhi: We'll wait. We have time....And are you sure it didn't involve a dream in which I was a character? That seems to happen A LOT out there...


Concord, N.H.: You have stated a love for the Snugglie/Slanket. Did you get it in Inquisition Red? The image of the forbidding man, grimly swathed in his red Snugglie, awaiting his lonely night in front of the TV with his dinner, always makes me giggle.

Paul Farhi: How about the losers sitting in the stands cheering for their favorite team while wearing a Snuggi? Would YOU go out in public with one of them on? (And I will note that the newspaper known around here for some years as Brand X carried a story the other day on just that idea--the reporter donned a Snuggi and took a seat in Times Square...)


Richmond, Va.: Harvey is admirable because he was one who still thought is was OK to admire someone who's views are different

Paul Farhi: Imagine! He'd probably last about 12 seconds in talk radio these days with that kind of wimpy attitude.


Burbank, Calif.: Hi Paul:

KLSX bit the dust recently and it was the last all talk radio format station in So. Cal. (It was the home of Howard Stern for many years). Replaced by a mindless pop-influenced mess that even an 11- year-old girl would sneer at. I sound like an old fogey, but I have given up. As an enormous fan of local radio stations and a former deejay, we can chalk it up to yet another thing of quality now missing from our world.

Paul Farhi: I go back to the days of KABC talk radio in L.A. when its star was Michael Jackson (not that one; this one was an urbane British guy who actually let people talk on the air and had intelligent guests--yes, kids, on a commercial radio station!). But let's not wallow in nostalgia here; radio is a dynamic, flexible medium. Formats change all the time. And this one, if it's no good, will change, too.


Let's be clear: Those 24-year-old men ruined their own lives by chosing to ACT on their fantasies to have sex with underage girls. NBC didn't ruin their lives, their own choices did that.

Paul Farhi: Certainly true, although NBC seems to be doing nicely by airing their would-be perversions. So, NBC put itself in the entrapment business--for our entertainment!


Catch phrases on radio/TV: I used to listen to Mr. Harvey back in the 1970s on my lunch hour. I would always turn off the radio before that cornball "Good DAY."

Ed McMahon had that 'heigh oh' when he was on the Tonight show that also annoyed me. I would always hit the mute button until he said that.

But I always watched/listened to the remainder.

Paul Farhi: I liked "Good DAY!" Who else says "good day" who isn't Australian? Again, it seems so throw-back-ish. Didn't they talk like that in high-society movies of the 1930s?


Arlington, Va.: Do you know anything about the economics of those paid shows that are on at all hours on both regular TV and cable? They must be profitable to the stations as Channel 9 recently dropped its Saturday early news for them, but do they know whether people actually watch them if there was something else on instead?

Paul Farhi: The station doesn't care who or how many people watch them. It has already collected X number of dollars for giving up the airtime (and we could argue about whether simply selling vast chunks of airtime to third parties is what the FCC had in mind when it licensed radio and TV stations "in the public interest," but that's another chat). The sponsor, meanwhile, knows exactly how many people are responding to its ads; it can count the calls coming in to its 800 number. That's why infomericals "work"--they're pure direct response.


Richmond, Va.: I had difficultly listening to Van Morrison since his voice has aged so much. If he sang new songs it would be better, but to hear a struggling voice sing my favorites so differently is depressing.

Paul Farhi: Well, he sounded great last night. If I had closed my eyes, I would have thought it was Van from 1968.


Newington: Deep thought, Paul...

As a normal eight-year-old little feller, I used to bawl like a baby listening to Mickey Dolenz sing "She." Has this ruined my life?

Paul Farhi: Even for an eight-year-old, you sound like a pushover, Newington. I don't even want to think about how you react to Celine Dion now.


Homogenous: Have American media voices become so smoothed out and similar that there is no room for someone with a voice like Harvey's (or Murrow's for that matter)?

Paul Farhi: I don't think so. The standards have changed, though, and I can't say that's a bad thing. Harvey really did sound like he was broadcasting from 1948--very stentorian. Nowadays, the lode star seems to be someone like Ira Glass--fake casual and intimate and offhand. Glass is really the anti-Paul Harvey.


Silver Spring, Mv.: Radio nostalgia moment: when I was growing up in California, shortly after the earth finished cooling, there were two or three stations.

EVERYBODY listened to Dave McElhatton and his sidekick in the morning. They did news, they did features, they sang dumb songs on the air ("Who put the highball in the fishbowl?" being the best. I listened with my dad, and we both enjoyed it.

Nothing like that now.

Paul Farhi: I'll see your Pleistocene nostalgia and raise you one Jurassic: I grew up listening to Loman and Barkley on KFI. Same deal--funny bits, comments, characters, song, etc. Kind of like Harden and Weaver here, I guess. But there still is stuff like that. Mike O'Meara's show for one.


Waldorf, Md.: I don't know if anyone still watches "24," but Jon Voight is really good as a bad guy. Sells out his country by getting terrorists into the White House, and then says to his flunky, "Let's play darts." Ouch!

Paul Farhi: Yes, Voight is playing a running character on "24"--the Bad Business Guy. He's a great actor. And here I get to name-drop again: I met him one a few years ago, in an elevator of all places. My daughter and I had just seen him in "Holes." I told him how wonderful it was to hear my daughter's laughter at his great performance echoing through the (nearly empty) theater. He seemed genuinely gratified (at the laughter, not the empty theater). But I think he was really gratified I didn't ask him, "What's up with that wacky daughter of yours?"


Chantilly, Va.: Paul Harvey might have ripped off Bill Stern, but from what I have read Bill had his own issues -- for example, many of his "Strange But True" sports stories that we we all read as kids were simply made up.

Remember the one about Ray Chapman, the guy killed by a pitch from Carl Mays? Stern told of how Chapman had gone 2 for 2 that day, with 2 doubles, scored 2 runs, the count was 2 and 2, etc. Turns out that was a complete load of BS, but in those pre-Internet days, who knew?

Paul Farhi: Amazing what anyone could get away with back when. I mean, there was actual plagiarism and bogus stories in the newspaper. I'm not making this up! (Okay, maybe I am; a quick Google search will tell you that...)


Harrisburg, Pa.: What up, P-Far.

I LOVED listening to Harvey on the radio -- in a way, it was not unlike hearing Keillor at 6 p.m. on Saturday evenings -- there's a permanency to it that is now gone. I take more umbrage at his hucksterism (precisely because it didn't SOUND like hucksterism) rather than his political views.

Favorite Harvey parody: about 12-14 years ago (back when the show was actually brilliant), the Simpsons had a cutaway to Grampa Simpson and a friend listening to an radio, and it cut to "And that little boy who nobody liked was... (pause)..Little Roy Cohn. And now you know the rest of the story".

Paul Farhi: Hahahaha! I bet that reference flew over the heads of 99.4 percent of the entire "Simpsons" audience, but it's pure genius...And, yep, part of one's enjoyment of any personality is the notion that you have had a long "relationship" with that personality over the years. Letterman is that way (you know his quirks, his moods, and so on). Rush is like that, too. Keillor is another. In some sense, it's like family--familiar, comfortable, enjoyable, but without the messy dinner scenes.


Eight Year-old Reactions: Newingdon shouldn't feel bad about "She," Paul. If I heard "Ben" right now, I'd still be a puddle on the floor, even after all these years, and knowing that Michael grew up to be Wacko Jacko

Paul Farhi: But...but..."Ben" is about a RAT. A rat. I'll say no more...


Pennsylvania: I think part of Upper Wacker Drive in Chicago is named for Paul Harvey. He seemed to be a kind and empathetic person and journalist. Will his son carry on the broadcasts?

Paul Farhi: Yes, true about the street name...And given that Paul was out so much these past few years with health issues, and given that ABC seems to have found a number of able subs (Ron Chapman, for instance), and given the vast syndication of the show, yes, I would expect it to continue in some form.


Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Care to be a TV geek for a bit?

I know the main topic of complaint about the TV transition to digital is whether or not people can receive a signal, and rightly so.

But there's an equally pernicious issue afoot: lag time between analog and digital.

Example: I was at a house party for the Super Bowl. When James Harrison had his 100 yard runback at the end of the first half, I was watching on the big HD screen while most others in the house were watching junk TV's attached to rabbit ears.

By the time Harrison had crossed his own 20 yard line, everyone else in the house was yelling touchdown!

This annoyed me.

So I decided to run a pair of timing tests, the first during the president's first press conference and the second during the "Address to Congress"/State of the Union stand-in. I figured all broadcasts came from the same pool camera, and I have an excellent picture in picture function on my TV set.

The results: WUSA has the fastest analog signal. WJLA was half second behind it on analog, while WRC analog was 2 seconds behind WUSA. WTTG (or Fox) was a surprising 3 seconds behind WUSA. Accordingly, I used WUSA's analog as the baseline to compare the HD transmissions.

WUSA's HD signal: almost contemporaneous with its own analog. Only a fraction of a second of lag time.

WRC's and WJLA's HD signals lagged 5 seconds from WUSA's analog.

The worst of the bunch? WTTG. A full 8 second lag from WUSA's analog, and 5 seconds delay from its own analog signal.

It was kind of fun to watch. With WUSA analog and WTTG HD side by side, just after Jake Tapper's question at 8:40 on 2/9, Obama punctuated a statement by pointing his index finger on WUSA analog. Eight seconds later, that finger pointed on Fox HD.

Do you know if the networks are going to speed up their transmissions once the digital conversion is in full place?

Paul Farhi: Fascinating! Thanks for the research. I've noticed something similar at my house. The big set downstairs, equipped with an HD cable box, is about five seconds or so ahead of the upstairs TV, which is just getting a basic cable signal. I'm not sure what gives, exactly, but I know someone out there does. Folks?


D.C.: Other folks aside from Aussies say "Good Day." I always thought it as funny when Don and Mike would sign off by saying:

"good day to you, sir."

"And a good day you sir."

Paul Farhi: I liked that, too...


Radio Daze: There has been a lot of talk mostly originating from conservative talk radio about the fairness doctrine. Can we apply this to FM radio. For every Nickleback song that gets played can we get at least at least one Black Lips song?

Seriously though, isn't it bad that only a couple of huge corporations own most of the radio stations? They all run on the same business model with the same sub group of songs and they wonder why they are all failing.

Paul Farhi: I was thinking about this very-common-to-this-chat comment while I was shoveling snow yesterday (no, I don't know why I was, but I was). Seems to me the owners of radio stations know what they're doing. They don't care about "creativity" or "experimentation" in playlists. They're sticking with the tried and true because it's tried and true and will maximize their audience and thus their ad revenue. And, yes, they are failing. But ask yourself this: Wouldn't they be failing much faster if they went all idiosyncratic and experimental?


Fairfax, Va.: Heresy! Insulting Ira Glass on his birthday!

Paul Farhi: Ira Glass is a great storyteller and runs a great show. But I can't stand his vocal style. Worse, his style is taking over public radio. Every kid on the air wants to sound like him. Please make them stop!


Gov. Rod: On the news that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has signed a book contract, the mind boggles. Imagining the book signing parties, the coverage in the New York Review of Books, the bookseller buzz. But, who is going to blurb this book other than Sen. Burris?

Paul Farhi: How about the three (or is it four?) previous governors of Illinois who were indicted and convicted? They can surely relate to Blago's story.


Chantilly, Va.: Paul, I am 48 and am proud to say I was a big fan of Paul Harvey's news reports, regardless of how dorky they might have been.

Some of us like old-timey radio and some don't, it's as simple as that.

Remember the CBS Radio Mystery Theater or whatever it was called? Back in the 70s, right? It was probably the last gasp of what I think someone called "television of the mind" or something like that.

Paul Farhi: Right. I will confess to being a geek/fuddy duddy about such matters. I love hearing Ed Walker's Big Broadcast on WAMU-FM on Sunday nights. Olde tyme radio shows like "Gunsmoke" and "Dragnet" and "Johnny Dollar." Just wonderful!


Glass is really the anti-Paul Harvey. : But only in how he sounds. Someone did a piece on NPR over the weekend saying that Ira Glass in particular is the inheritor of Paul Harvey's brand of journalism: a focus on small stories that we'd normally never hear about.

Paul Farhi: Well, that's pushing it a bit, I think. Glass does long-form journalism. His show takes small stories and explores them from various angles, mostly from a personal perspective. The only thing he has in common with Harvey is the small-story focus. Harvey's were mere snippets, and never really personal to Harvey himself. "This American Life" basically does radio novels.


Houston, Tex.: Ed Walker and Willard Scott -- (yes, that Willard Scott) "The Joy Boys of Radio" on WRC 980 (?) early evenings when I was a just a small tadpole.

Paul Farhi: Yes, a famous local team, in the Harden & Weaver mode. (Message to young people, if any, on this chat: I promise we'll get our heads out of 45 years ago soon).


Jon Voight: Encounter with Greatness: Sounds like you did good. I would have probably made a joke about the Seinfeld episode, and he would have bitten me.

Paul Farhi: My two rules about talking to famous people: 1) Don't gush or say you're a big fan, even if you are; and 2) Don't ask them the obvious thing, since everyone does and they're probably sick of it.


Comcast, Va.: I haven't tested it as thoroughly as the other person, but in general I've found that HD over the air is at least 5 seconds ahead of basic cable.

Paul Farhi: Yep. My experience exactly.


Arlington, Va.: re HD latency,

It is maddening when I try to watch a baseball game and listen to the radio play by play at the same time (if, say, you prefer the radio broadcaster to the TV one) ... total disconnect, horrible.

Paul Farhi: Same thing with Redskins games, as noted here frequently.


Ft. Washington, Md.: I still love the song "Ben." I sing it to my dog. He hates it.

Paul Farhi: Your dog has good taste. Although being a dog, a rat would probably taste good.


Arlington, Va.: re: time lags, I recently got an HDTV, and I notice that if I switch back and forth between an HD channel and the non-HD version of the same channel, there is always a time lag. Not as long as it takes to run 80 yards, but they are different.

Paul Farhi: That's an interesting one. I haven't tried switching back and forth on the same TV....Hmmm. Perhaps the cable company is giving us our own little mini-TiVo.


Arlington, Va.: Early morning I was watching Fox 5 for weather updates yesterday and I could've sworn I heard the two morning anchors congratulating (sarcastically, I hope) Tony Perkins for correctly estimating the snow coverage. His prediction 2 inches to two feet. I know weathermen aren't really that good at predictions -- especially around here, but come on...

Paul Farhi: The Federal Non-Hype in Weather Forecasting Act would outlaw that kind of absurd hedging. Henceforth, weather people MUST predict within 1.5 inches the total snowfall, or face reassignment to non-studio coverage of the next storm. Also, the act would ban any use of the phrase "wintry mix." I urge you to call your congressperson and support this necessary legislation.


Ira's style...: Ira's style doesn't bug me, but I am in complete agreement with you re: fake Iras. It's HIS style, all of the guys, and worst the girls, trying to imitate him sound as ridiculous as they would if they suddenly decided to all talk like Howard Cosell! I think he encourages it though by putting the sound alikes on his show.

Paul Farhi: He does, yes. And I wonder if the producers coach the soundalikes: "Okay, this time, try to sound more world weary and spiritually exhausted....Yes, that's it!...Now, slur a couple of words, just for 'authenticity.'...Excellent!"


Ballston Cube, Va.: For the guy who can't watch HD and listen to the radio, here's the fix: Make sure you are watching on TiVo or other DVR and pause it for five seconds, then start...easy fix.

Paul Farhi: Technology taketh, technology fixeth....


Leesburg, Va.: "Wouldn't they be failing faster if they went all idiosyncratic?"

At the risk of hitting to close to home, the answer is: "Some would, some wouldn't." IMHO, that mindset is part of the reason that a medium like blogs are on the rise while a medium like print newspapers are falling toward specialization.

Do all blogs succeed? No. But the ones that do develop a core following of very loyal readers who relentlessly visit and re-visit the blog.

What's the incentive for me, the listener, to stay tuned to a radio station that's offering the same music as all the other ones. I can hear Daughtry, Beyonce, and Katy Perry on any one of a dozen different channels, so what's keeping me on a station? The witty banter they allow some random CSB graduate to quip for 2.5 minutes every hour?

If a station offered something that no one else did, I would tune in and stay tuned it. The secret is finding a specialty that enough people would listen to. Will everyone success? No, but the ones that do will be great.

Paul Farhi: Oh, now you've asked for it. Blogs? Blogs are killing newspapers? NOt really. If that were the case, newspapers would have bought the most popular blogs and brought them to their own sites. Or started their own (which, of course, they have). The problems are far deeper of course--Craigslist, for starters. Unsupportable debt loads at some newspaper companies. And, oh, yeah, a little thing called the deepest recession in about 70 years.

And you're factually wrong about the Daughtry, Beyonce, Perry thing. You can hear them on a few stations, sure. But dozens? Nope.


More on Ira: I think it's true that Glass's introductions to TAL pieces are personal, but the rest of it never is. He's serving as a host, and is therefore personal. But other people produce those long-form stories, and after the introduction Ira is nowhere to be heard.

Glass and Harvey are alike in that they take one thing and explore it in depth in order to point out how it has a Larger Meaning for All of Us. But you're right about the short/long distinction. I think of TAL as doing "48 Hours" journalism -- they will hold hold hold on a subject as they go from conversation to choking up to sobbing, whereas most journos will cut away after 4-8 seconds. It's almost the way Reuven Frank used to do it.

Paul Farhi: Harvey never did in-depth journalism; that was one of the charms of his show. He never lingered for more than a couple of paragraphs (tops) on a single subject. And it seemed to me, he never followed up anything. Whatever you heard on Tuesday was gone by Wednesday. "This American Life" is all about texture and context and personal involvement; it's not Paul Harvey in the least.


The Airless Cubicle: It could be that Paul Harvey's stentorian style was his medium, Paul. AM radio, with its narrower bandwidth and higher background static level, requires a little more distinction than FM radio. Paul Harvey, like Murrow, had a distinct way of using pauses to keep our attention. Would that almost all radio stations today could keep mine.

Paul Farhi: Never thought it that way, but yes. The sonic quality of AM being what it is, it does require a richer, more powerful voice. Incidentally, back when, this was often cited as the reason women couldn't make it on radio--their voices weren't rich and deep enough. It's hogwash, of course, but it was the cover for the discrimination...


Rhode Island: "fake casual and intimate and offhand" -- thanks, Paul, that's perfect. I've been trying to figure out what annoys me about Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. That's it!

Paul Farhi: As always, it pays to fake one's sincerity better.


Laurel, Md.: Analog vs. Digital signals. In my house the analog signal usually seems faster with the digital signal lagging a second or three behind. However, occasionally the opposite is true. I think the variation comes about due to the use of pause, rewind and fast forward on the HD DVR functions.

Paul Farhi: Oh, I'm so confused...


Meteorologic, AL: I don't mind that the weatherman gets it wrong. I would actually like a forecast that says, basically, "It's cold. Wear a coat and a hat," or even "It's gonna be snowing, but it's not a serious snow like they get in Chicago, you wimps!" (Basically Wilbon the Weatherman, that's what I'd like to see.) I don't need "upper atmosphere" and "front" and "El Nino". Just coat or not, umbrella or not, stay home or not. Who needs precision?

Paul Farhi: That would be nice, but TV stations have too much invested in their weather stuff (super-dooper Doppler, lemon-scented 3-D maps, etc.) to let it go at that.


Newspaper Blogs: Um, didn't the Post buy Slate?

Paul Farhi: Slate isn't a blog; it's a daily magazine, and a brilliant one.


Springfield : The best Simspons "Paul Harvey" bit was when Homer and Marge bought the "How to be an erotic American" cassette tape.

"Hello Americans, Paul Harvey here...did you know a happy American is an erotic American? (Pause) "IIIIt's True!"

Paul Farhi: Hahahaha...Y'know, if you could pick one show to have with you on a desert island, it would have to be "The Simpsons." (Assuming the desert island had electricity and TVs and a DVR, of course).


Paul Farhi: Well, I should move along now. But in keeping with today's Very Special Paul Harvey theme, I should probably close with "Paul Farhi....Good DAY!" But I won't. Instead, I'll do the usual and invite you back for more next week. With any luck, it will almost be spring. Until then, regards to all...Paul.


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