Talk of the Towne
Huell Howser & the Plaza Review

If there’s one person who knows about the power of local media, it’s Huell Howser. On a recent visit to Old Towne to donate his collected works to Chapman University, the public television legend commented on the compelling nature of “small town” publications like the Plaza Review.

“Local media always has the trump card in this day and age,” says the host of the long–running KCET series “California’s Gold,” which highlights towns and their people throughout the state. “Big media is so big that it doesn’t have the time, space or staff to cover things happening in the local community, and as far as I’m concerned, all news is local news. Large newspaper circulations continue to drop, while small newspapers are growing, because everyone wants to read about themselves and their neighbors.”

While Howser acknowledges the Internet and its place in today’s world, he insists it’s no replacement for neighborhood news.

“The Internet is out there in space somewhere,” says the native Tennessean, who came to Southern California in 1981 as reporter with KCBS–TV Los Angeles and fell in love with the state, eventually transitioning to public television.

“The web isn’t something you can touch and grab ahold of,” he says. “People want to reach out and pick up the local paper at the barber shop or beauty salon. This nation’s small towns and neighborhoods within larger towns have retained connections between family and friends, which is vital, and the way this whole country used to be.”

In his one–of–a–kind television shows, Howser does his part to highlight the riches within California communities, artfully extracting the nuggets that represent the essence of a place or an event and distilling the experience for his viewers. Over the years, he has done several shows on Orange County cities.

“I enjoy watching his earnest and genuine fascination with the people and places he profiles on his shows,” says Anna Farrand, a Political Science major at Chapman and a native to Orange County, who recently heard Howser speak in her history class. “I and many other Chapman students are looking forward to accessing his shows, which offer a great opportunity to look back at the history of California communities.”

Howser donated his vast colletion of television programs, including past and future episodes, for digitization to Chapman. The university is putting the entire collection online, making it available to anyone who wants to view Howser’s many television programs and various materials. Howser also donated papers, memorabilia and 1,800 books on California.

Read more about Huell Howser.

Published in the Nov/Dec 2011 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Written by Julie Bawden-Davis, Photograph by Jeanine Hill

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