April 17, 2024

Broadcasting icon Harry Smith retires

Harry Smith

Harry Smith retired last week from NBC news programs, including the Today Show.

The 72-year-old native of Lansing, Illinois will return to his alma mater, Central College in Pella, to teach a course in “Curiosity” next fall. Smith got his bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Central College in 1972 and began his broadcasting career in radio before moving into television, including a 25-year career at CBS before moving to NBC 12 years ago.

Smith’s unique storytelling will be missed. As he said in his farewell appearance on the Today Show, he said he tried to tell stories about people who enriched their communities, who made you laugh, made you cry, and made you proud.

“I tried to shine a light on people who helped us remember that there is more that unites us, than divides us,” Smith said.

In this age of tribalism in politics and society in general, where there’s so much name-calling and berating of those on “the other side,” it’s refreshing to hear stories like the ones Smith brought into our living rooms. Certainly, during my career I enjoyed telling those types of stories more than the tougher ones about bad news and conflict.

Smith reminded those of us in the media business just how lucky we are to earn a living on the doorstep of history. Some samples of his career shown on his last appearances included his conversation with astronaut Michael Collins about what it was like to be in Apollo 11 alone as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

He talked to a radio operator who alerted fellow soldiers that Japanese planes were approaching Pearl Harbor. He profiled a couple who attended Woodstock in 1969, fell in love, and married for 50 years. He had a story on a man who loved playing catch with his son, who died in an accident. So, he often played catch with strangers, including local high school players.

He went to Kenya and saw people saving the elephants.

Smith also did several pieces with celebrities, but he seemed to most enjoy the stories of our friends and neighbors doing something special behind the scenes.

“It all seems like it happened yesterday,” Smith concluded.

Married to sportscaster Andrea Joyce, Smith said he may write a book as well. (I would read it!) He stays active as a cyclist.

A journalist who still loves introducing America to special people at age 72 and tries to stay physically fit. In other words, he’s my role model!

I know exactly what he means by feeling that it all seems like yesterday. My annual Medicare physical is this afternoon at age 66. Time has a way of sneaking up on you.

If the roulette wheel of health issues stops on my name sometime and slows me down from contributing on a regular basis, I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunities I had. I didn’t have Harry Smith’s career, but I did get to meet national figures like astronaut Peggy Whitson of Beaconsfield and Emmy-winning drummer with the stars John Robinson of Creston through working in this business, for example.

You don’t get wealthy in your bank account in this business, but your life is incredibly enriched. Thanks for following along!


Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

Larry Peterson


Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.