Headlining History

By Marcus Key (B.A.’11)

As the world turns, history is made. Events unfold and situations escalate. Few have witnessed as much history unfold right before their eyes as Randy Harber (M.A. ’87, Ph.D. ‘92).

For more than 28 years Harber captured history in the moment as a copy editor at CNN.

“I’ve seen the world’s great joys and the world’s great tragedies. And for this I’ve grown to appreciate the flow of history,” said Harber.

Harber’s dedication to history and love of journalism can be traced to his youth in Screven County, Ga. where as a teen he went from developing photos in a darkroom to writing a weekly column for the local paper. His breakout story was an article about the vehicle used in the first James Bond movie “Goldfinger.”

“Aston-Martin was touring the sports car and I wrote an article about it,” he said. “Not only did the paper run it, it was the lead story. And I guess that was it.
I knew I wanted to be a reporter, and I never looked back.”

After college, Harber covered politics for United Press International and then national and international news at the Atlanta Journal.

It was around this time that his curiosity led him to inquire about a new 24-hour news network that Ted Turner was starting up.

Ultimately, Harber was hired as one of CNN’s first 200 employees. In fact, it was Harber who edited the first script of the first broadcast that aired on CNN June 1, 1980.

“Right up to the very moment we went on the air there was a real question of whether we could do it at all,” said Harber. “I didn’t know anything really about television, but as a team we made it work.”

Harber worked at CNN through the network’s coverage of the Persian Gulf War, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks. He’s edited thousands of stories and worked with just as many journalists.

While working full-time at CNN, Harber still managed to obtain two advanced degrees in English from GSU. During his time at Georgia State, Harber helped install the communications department’s first computer lab, was the editor of GSU Review for a quarter and worked as a part-time professor of journalism.

His devotion to GSU is also exemplified by his donations to “Five Points: A Journal of Literature” and Art and the Kenneth M. England professorship of Southern Literature. As a graduate student, Harber was a student of England.

“Dr. England was a fascinating guy,” said Harber. “I will credit him as being one of the people who had vast knowledge. I am happy to have both known him and had classes with him.”

Since recently retiring from CNN, Harber now plans on relaxing, but still leaves his options open for the future.

“People have told me over the years that there was life after CNN,” said Harber. “I didn’t know if I believed them or not, although I will say that taking long walks, napping every afternoon and tending my garden has been very nice.”