When Pat Harvey joined KCAL-TV in 1989, little did she know the massive impact she would have on broadcast journalism or the countless lives she would affect.
She arrived with an impressive resume, which included stints as an original anchor of CNN Headline News and later anchoring CNN’s Daybreak newscast. Moving next to news anchor at Chicago Superstation WGN, Harvey’s investigative reports on the high number of women dying from faulty pap smears led to legislation to regulate cytology labs in the state.
Since arriving in Los Angeles, Harvey made an even greater impression through her insightful and factual story telling about people and issues that connect with the city’s population and beyond. For example, in 1990, she was a reporter on a series on the end of the civil war in El Salvador and interviewed a child who lost both legs after stepping on a mine. Harvey’s report persuaded Loma Linda Hospital to fly the girl to L.A. to receive free prosthetics.
These types of stories – those that have a major effect on people’s lives – are what Harvey said she has treasured the most during her long career in L.A. And based on the multiple awards and honors she has received; it appears that her viewers and colleagues recognize her gift as a broadcast journalist.
“I love my job and connecting with people and hearing from them. That makes me feel good and feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing,” she said.
Doing her job has resulted in a cache of memorable stories for Harvey, who recalled the time in 1990 that Nelson Mandela visited Los Angeles after his release from prison. Since KCAL News was relatively new, she didn’t get to meet Mandela, but she did cover his appearance at the Coliseum.
“There was a huge concert and we were on the roof and I met the late Stan Chambers, who was on KTLA. For me, being a newbie, that was very special,” remembered Harvey.
“Fast forward to 1994, I went to South Africa to cover the first all-race election and I met Nelson Mandela in an elevator. I didn’t have my cameraman with me at the time, but I was able to put my hands on him and our story was incredible,” she said.
Harvey and her associates encountered some volatile situations due to the violence surrounding the election. After arriving in Johannesburg and retrieving their luggage, a bomb exploded in the baggage claim area and another bomb went off in the downtown area. “But, for some reason, I didn’t feel any fear,” said Harvey. “We just immediately went to work to try and capture those images and tell the story.”
Another notable occurrence that she holds dear was the opportunity to expose L.A. race relations following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and the tragic consequences of a death and many people injured. Harvey moderated a televised discussion featuring the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sentinel executive publisher Danny Bakewell, Sr., Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the late LAUSD superintendent, Michelle King.
“I was very excited that we were able to do that and that CBS decided to take what had happened and really open up about it and hear from people who have really made a difference give their different viewpoints about what happened there in Charlottesville and what we can do in society to come together. I was very happy about that. That really put it out front because that particular incident affected everyone,” she said.
Harvey’s intuitive work has resulted several honors such as the Genii Award for excellence in TV broadcasting from American Women in Radio and Television – Southern California chapter, the Joseph M. Quinn Lifetime Achievement Award from the L.A. Press Club, “Best News Anchor” from the Associated Press and the Hollywood Women’s Press Club for ethics in journalism.
Her 23 Emmy Awards include recognition for her reports on basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson a decade after he was diagnosed with HIV and a multi-part series from East Africa on the AIDS epidemic and the brutal centuries-old practice of female genital mutilation. In addition, she’s received five Golden Mic awards and was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.
Despite her busy career and abundance of accolades, Harvey still devotes considerable time to volunteer activities with organizations like the NABJ-L.A. chapter, Special Needs Network and MLK Community Hospital.
“I also enjoy donating and handing out food for Jackson Limousine’s Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway and still look forward to working with my dear friend, Sweet Alice Harris with Parents of Watts, for her Thanksgiving and Christmas giveaways,” she noted.
Harvey is active with the Good News Foundation, a group comprised of four other fellow newswomen in Los Angeles. The organization awards scholarships to future broadcast journalists and raises funds to help various charities. During Harvey’s tenure as co-chair, the nonprofit built a library for the Downtown Women’s Center, a computer lab for School on Wheels and a playground in South L.A.
Crediting her father and mother as her role models, Harvey said that observing them while growing up in Detroit inspired both her community service involvement and her career choice.
“My folks were middle-class parents and were very involved with the community, schools, PTA, scouts and all of those things. My mother wrote everybody – the mayor, city council, the White House – and she got answers,” said Harvey.
“I think the reason I got into journalism was because of the things that my parents cared about and the things that I would hear them discuss and talk about. I realized that maybe I could have a career talking about these kinds of things or doing reports that could really impact people.”
Her realization became reality in a big way for Harvey, who holds title of being L.A.’s longest prime-time anchor at one station. And while she’s reached the 30-year mark, she shows no sign of slowing down.
“I feel so blessed to be here 30 years,” said Harvey. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long and to me, that only means that I am still energized and I still have some things to say!”