Now Fagreed Knows The Rest of the Story

Paul Harvey in his long and distinguished career represented all that is good in America --and radio.

He touched the audience with his delivery, writing, subject matter and ability to report the news that other shows neglected.

The ABC Radio star would never have lasted this long had he not been doing something very well. And, had it not been for the recent death of his beloved wife "Angel" and his own declining health, Paul Harvey could have gone on almost forever.

That's the way his audience would have wanted it.

That's the way his advertisers wanted it.

This man, born in 1918, understood how to sell things -- which is why a Paul Harvey listener never turned the station when page two (the first commercial) came along.

How many radio stations can say that?

And yet, broadcasting moved away from the wisdom that gave Paul Harvey longevity in a business that increasingly makes it difficult to survive.

There are many appreciations of this great man being done this morning -- one seemingly more impressive than the next -- but I want to make different point.

One of my readers emailed me over the weekend to say, "At least he won't be fired because of too much talent, too much money, too many listeners (the three seem to go together) as so many other of our Radio brothers and sisters have recently been".

He is right and it is a sad state of affairs.

Paul Harvey was treated like a rock star by ABC before it was sold to the pretenders at Citadel who bought ABC's stations and radio network. Had Paul Harvey died in the employ of ABC, Disney Chairman Bob Iger would have no doubt weighed in with his tribute right away.

President Bush wasted no time in volunteering this statement: "Paul was a friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans. His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed. Laura and I are pleased to have known this fine man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

But Citadel CEO Farid "Fagreed" Suleman was still not heard from over the weekend when the news was announced that radio lost Paul Harvey, his star employee. At least ABC Radio President Jim Robinson had the presence of mind to place a two-line statement on Citadel's website over the weekend.

If you went to the Citadel website Saturday or Sunday then you saw nothing about Paul Harvey's passing -- nothing. You would have to click on ABC Radio to get a picture and three remembrances -- none from Fagreed.

Meanwhile, the general media ran with extensive coverage of Harvey's passing.

Could it be that Fagreed didn't appreciate Paul Harvey?

I don't want to be crass about this but radio's biggest bean counter just saved himself a lot of money. It was no secret that Paul Harvey's next contract -- if he had wanted to continue on -- was no slam dunk with Fagreed in charge.

Fagreed throws nickels around like manhole covers.

As profitable as Harvey's show has been, profit never impressed Fagreed Suleman.

I'm not trying to be overly hard on Fagreed -- God knows there are a lot of other things he routinely botches for his shareholders, audience, advertisers and employees. But, you've got the biggest radio star dying in your employ -- show some respect.

Try not to make everything about money.

If Fagreed can't respect Paul Harvey, how can he respect the other people who work for him?

The short answer is: he can't.

And the long answer is: he won't.

It strikes me that the death of Paul Harvey oddly enough comes at a time when radio is heading toward its demise. In Paul Harvey's case, he fought to uphold high journalistic integrity in everything he did.

When an industry ceases to appreciate its employees -- as Citadel and many of the other consolidators have done -- then it doesn't matter how much money you can save, you're bankrupt in yet another way.

Devoid of decency.

A creature selling out to a higher power -- investment banks.

Paul Harvey and the pre-Citadel ABC were perfect together.

ABC is gone -- being turned into Fagreed Suleman's playstation.

My friend Joe Benson reminds me of the way Paul Harvey usually ended his Christmas Eve radio broadcasts by saying "And remember, it's His birthday - [pause] - not yours."

Perhaps we can remind Fagreed that he is still a fiduciary of the public trust by saying "And remember, it's their radio stations -- not yours".

Fagreed has failed as a CEO -- under his stewardship Citadel stock is worth less than a dime.

Failed as a leader of women and men who care about what they do for a living -- under his rule more employees have been fired than under the previous regimes.

And he failed at common decency -- it doesn't cost anything to give sincere and honest appreciation to your employees -- current and former -- as well as those who passed away after a lifetime of distinguished service.

I'm sorry, but for Fagreed it's just another way of being a jerk.

And to borrow a much used and favorite Paul Harvey phrase, for Citadel there is no "rest of the story".

Paul Harvey lives on in the hearts and minds of his listeners, his associates and his admirers.

It's Citadel that died.

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