October 10, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
And Jennifer Bihm
Sentinel Staff Writer
For award winning journalist Pat Harvey, telling stories is part of her being.
The CBS/KCAL news anchor has been as much of a staple in Los Angeles living rooms as the coffee table and the flat screen television.
After all, she has been speaking to the Los Angeles audience for the most part of her 30-year journalistic journey.
Her unwavering passion to be more than just a reporter started a long time ago in her birthplace near Detroit, Michigan.
“I enjoy telling stories,” Harvey told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
“I like sharing information. I like talking to people.”
Harvey, started her career in Saginaw, Michigan not far from her birthplace in Detroit.
It was then where she was fill-in for a local talent show and then had an assignment for a local ground breaking ceremony.
She remembered being one of the few if not only Black broadcast journalists on the scene at the time. While she was elated, her parents were wary.
“I remember when I told my [parents] I wanted to go into journalism,” Harvey recalled.
“But they had other ideas. They were used to women being in positions of… being a nurse, a very honorable profession, or a teacher, which is what my mother was. I told my father a broadcast journalist, he looked at me strangely,” and said, ‘well Pat I don’t know about that. I mean, you don’t look anything like Walter Cronkite…’”
She pushed forward anyway, however, although she had to work other jobs like medical billing and as a secretary to pay bills along the way, but Harvey got her foot in the door, she said, at the first Black owned and operated TV stations in the United States.
“I started working there as sales secretary,” she said.
“My boss and I got along so well.”
Opportunity knocked one day when her boss was out to lunch.
“He was at lunch or something and I knew I had to get these General Motors contracts out,” Harvey said.
“I wasn’t supposed to do that but [my boss] wasn’t in. So, I said, ‘I’m not going to lose this money.’ I told them, ‘Mr. Panigiss is at lunch.’
“They said, ‘we’re on deadline, we have to leave. And I said, ‘I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me signing these contracts for you.’ And, I did.
“And I said, ‘either he’s going to have my head or he’s going to take a different approach. He said, ‘that was really pretty gutsy of you to do that.’ But you know what? I’m glad you did it because the station didn’t lose these contracts.
“And he said, ‘you know what? You told me you wanted to be a reporter right?’ and I said, ‘yeah, Mr. Panigiss.’ He said, ‘our guy is going to be on vacation for a couple of weeks…’”
Panigiss gave her a shot at hosting a local dance show called “The Scene.” It wasn’t reporting but it was pointing her in the right direction.
“I did that in 1976 and I had a little moniker. They called me the disco lady. Because it was such a new TV station, everybody who came to Detroit came there to be interviewed. I interviewed Billy Dee Williams, Ruby Dee, and James Earl Jones… and here I am, a newbie and I’m just starting out. I took it very seriously and worked well.”
After that, they gave her a radio show, she said.
“I hosted it for five minutes everyday. It was called Woman’s World. And I talked about issues that I thought were relevant to our community. They were issues my mom and dad talked about at the breakfast table.
“I did that for about a year then took a job at the CBS affiliate in Detroit as a community affairs assistant and within six months I became a staff announcer, where you sign the station on, you rip news copy in the morning.
“I did that for a year and realized I needed to go to a smaller market, I order to really get started in news. I took a [50%] pay cut to take a job as an assignment reporter in Saginaw.”
She took the pay cut because she was serious about what she wanted to do, she said. As an assignment reporter, she learned how to do everything, from writing and editing her own stories, to shooting them.
She joined KCAL 9 in Los Angeles in 1989, alongside the late Jerry Dunphy on the anchor desk. In April 2010, Harvey began co-anchoring for KCAL sister station KCBS news at 5 and 11PM. She is the longest-running anchor in prime time at one station in Los Angeles. For her 20th anniversary, the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared Oct. 30, 2009, Pat Harvey Day, by proclamation.
Harvey was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. in January 2012. Her other awards include 19 local Emmys, L.A. Press Club, RTNA Lifetime Achievement Award and AWRT Genii Award, NABJ Hall of Fame.
She says that she is most proud of her honor with the NABJ because she understands the rare occurrence of Blacks in the field of journalism and broadcast journalism, particularly.
Harvey has covered stories from the Papal Conclave in Rome and the AIDS epidemic in East Africa to the first race elections in South Africa to the children of war torn El Salvador. Before Los Angeles, she worked in Chicago at WGN Superstation. Her investigative reports there on faulty pap smear tests, which led to thousands of deaths among women, resulted in legislation regulating cytology labs in Illinois and the closure of one in Southern California. Her report on children of war in El Salvador resulted in prosthetics for a little girl who’d lost her legs in a minefield. In a world of fast changing technology, where traditional journalism seems to be falling by the wayside, the long time broadcaster seems fearless. She is confident, she said, in who she is and what she does.
“I’ve been here,” said Harvey.
“And I think people have accepted me as someone who really cares about what I’m talking about. You can’t fool the public. And while, people are replaced all the time, at the same time, you have to connect with your viewers. People tell me I connect with them. I never feel just that I’m talking to a camera. I’m talking to somebody. Credibility is key.”
Because of her enormous popularity and community service, Harvey was asked to carry the Olympic Torch through downtown Los Angeles in 2002 and has received two honorary doctorate degrees in the humanities.
She has been seen in various films, and TV programs, often playing herself.
In 2006, Harvey and four other TV anchorwomen formed the Good News Foundation. The group built a computer lab for homeless children on skid row, a park and recreation center in South LA and a library for homeless women at the Downtown Women's Center, in addition to an annual college scholarship for aspiring female journalists.
On July 20th, 2012, Pat was a guest co-host on the CBS Daytime Show The Talk. It was her tenth appearance.
Next week on October 19 when the 8th annual ‘Taste of Soul’ family festival unfolds along Crenshaw Blvd., Harvey will have the microphone in her hand as she graces the Wave Stage as one of the events prestigious co-chairs.
“Pat Harvey is much more than a television news anchor who gracefully delivers the news to us, but she is a member of our community and as always a treasured friend to the ‘Taste of Soul’ and me personally,” said ‘Taste of Soul’ Creator Danny J. Bakewell Sr.
Asked why she loves ‘Taste of Soul’ so much, Harvey added; “Well you know I love to cook. I love soul food and the excitement that it brings to see the community come together for that moment is a sight to behold.”
Married to real estate developer Ken Lombard, Harvey and her husband share three adult children between them, and two grandchildren.