just so you know the rest of the story
By John Durkee, 2017 Inductee
No one knows who delivered the first radio news broadcast in Tulsa.
Most likely it was on station WLAL.
The original owner said the call letters stood for “We Laugh A Little.” The station signed on in October of 1923. The laughter did not last long. The station fell silent in 1926.
While the first newscaster’s identity is a mystery, Tulsa’s most famous newscaster is not. Paul Harvey Aurandt was born in Tulsa in 1918.
By age 14, his high school speech teacher was so impressed she took young Paul to KVOO Radio and got him a part-time job. He did everything there from taking out the trash to delivering news.
Dropping his last name, he became Paul Harvey on the air.
From Tulsa, he traveled northwest to Wichita, Kansas and KFBI. Then he went south to KOMA in Oklahoma City. His next stop would be KXOK in St. Louis, Missouri.
Following World War II’s intervention, he resumed his career at an ABC station WENR in Chicago, Illinois. He hosted a local employment program called “Jobs for GI Joe.” It was there the network first took note of his comfortable on-air style.
In 1951, he began hosting “Paul Harvey News and Commentary.” The program would reach 24 million people per week over 1,200 radio stations. It lasted until his death in 2009.
Paul Harvey was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1973. But he wasn’t the only Hall of Fame member from Tulsa. NBC Today Show co-host Jim Hartz, inducted in 2003, was another. His career started on Tulsa radio. First, he was a news reporter for struggling KOME Radio and then on to KRMG. From KRMG, Hartz would venture into television.
Others from Tulsa were:
- Jack Morris, a 1974 Hall of Fame inductee, started as a teenager, hosting a pet giveaway program on Joplin, Missouri’s WMBH. In 1940, he moved to Tulsa to work at KTUL Radio. Eventually, he would lead the news operation. Morris transitioned to television when the owners signed on Channel 8 in 1954. He joined what is now KJRH-TV in 1970 to finish out his broadcast career.
- Ed Brocksmith, inducted in 2000, joined KRMG Radio in Tulsa after graduating from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in 1965. After a couple of years, he became the head of the Indian Nations Network, a fledgling statewide news network. After returning to KRMG as news director, he was credited with building the station’s news and weather reputation.
- A 2012 inductee, Neal Kennedy was born in a military hospital on Oahu in Hawaii. After his dad’s military career, the family settled in Norman. Kennedy worked at the University of Central Oklahoma campus station in Edmond before joining WKY Radio. He then headed up the turnpike to spend 24 years as a reporter and assistant news director at KVOO in Tulsa, before finishing out his career crosstown at KRMG.
- Lis Exon is a graduate of The University of Tulsa and a 2017 inductee. She reported for campus station KWGS, as well as commercial radio stations KXXO and KELI in Tulsa. She jumped to television at Channel 2 in Tulsa. She would later report for TV stations in Denver, Colorado, in Orlando, Florida, and in Houston, Texas. Exon would return to Channel 2 and finish her career at the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.
Finally, I would join Exon as a Hall of Fame member in 2017, but took the opposite path, opting to end my career at The University of Tulsa radio station KWGS. A product of OSU, I worked at KTOK in Oklahoma City before becoming news director at KAKC, in my native Tulsa. I also was the operation manager for a chain of stations headquartered in Joplin during the 1980s. I returned to Tulsa to spend 20 years at KRMG, 18 as news director.
Now you know the rest of the story about how Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Famers made an impact not only on Tulsa radio but on the nation’s airwaves, too.