Harvey Ovshinsky Papers

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Harvey Ovshinsky papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Harvey Ovshinsky manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Writer, journalist, news broadcaster, radio host, television producer, creative consultant, and teacher in Detroit (Mich.). Materials in this online collection include a short film created by Harvey Ovshinsky in 1964 and other sound and video recordings that document his career in radio and television.

Harvey Ovshinsky was born on April 9, 1948 to Stanford and Norma Ovshinsky and grew up in northwest Detroit (Mich.). From an early age, Ovshinsky exhibited a passion for writing. Shortly after his parents’ divorce in 1959, Stanford Ovshinsky and his second wife Iris gave Ovshinsky a small printing press, enabling him to print his own newsletters. While attending Mumford High school, Ovshinsky continued to write and self-publish. He also worked after school at Mumford Music, a neighborhood music store owned by his mother’s second husband, Adolph Marks. Ovshinsky thrived on the experience of the diverse community that frequented the music store. Further, working at Mumford Music strengthened the teenaged Ovshinsky’s sense of connection with the culture of Detroit. He was devastated when his mother and stepfather decided to move their family to Los Angeles in 1965.

While in Los Angeles, Ovshinsky worked with the LA Free Press, one of the most broadly distributed underground newspapers of the 1960s. This job, combined with homesickness, sparked his dream to found a similar newspaper in Detroit. He returned home that same year and founded The Fifth Estate, Detroit’s first underground newspaper. Ovshinsky briefly attended Monteith College at Wayne State University in Detroit while simultaneously running the newspaper, but eventually dropped his classes to focus on The Fifth Estate. The fledgling newspaper expanded with the help of anti-war activist Peter Werbe and the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

Ovshinsky left The Fifth Estate in April 1968. By the time of his departure, most of the staff held more radical views than Ovshinsky, who was more interested in promoting community and communication than social revolution. Ovshinsky began two years of alternative service work as a conscientious objector at the Lafayette Clinic, a state psychiatric hospital in Detroit. He started as a clerk and worked his way up to Attendant Nurse. While at Lafayette, he founded an independent self-help center called “Open City,” intended to provide counseling, community, and medical and legal support to Detroit’s youth. During his time at Lafayette Clinic, Ovshinsky also met his future wife, Cathie Kurek, who was working there as a psychiatric nurse.

While still employed at the clinic, Ovshinsky launched a weekly morning talk show called "Spare Change" in 1969, which aired on an alternative Detroit radio station, WXYZ-FM. He was hired as news director at WABX-FM in Detroit the following year. Ovshinsky’s work in media and communications soon expanded to television, when he left WABX and joined The Video Group in 1973 as a writer and producer.

Quickly frustrated by the financial instability of The Video Group, Ovshinsky launched his own company, Creative Media Inc., in 1974, providing freelance writing and production services to businesses, advertising agencies, and television stations. While he enjoyed the freedom of working independently, financial difficulties led him to close the company in 1976 and return to work for a local television station, WXYZ-TV, in Detroit. In the decade to follow, Ovshinsky would continue to work on projects in both television and radio for stations such as WDIV-TV, WRIF-FM, and Detroit Public Television.

In the early 1980s, Ovshinsky began writing original screenplays. These include PJ and the Dragon and The Keyman. In 1980, Ovshinsky also began teaching to bring in extra income for his own children’s education. While working with elementary school children at Grosse Pointe Academy, Ovshinsky developed a passion for understanding how children learn through play, drawing, and dramatization, which led to his development of a proprietary approach to teaching through “physual” (physical plus visual) learning. This passion would later carry over to his efforts to create educational programming for children, such as Pendragon’s Park and The Mighty Hubble. Ovshinsky also taught courses in screenwriting and creative writing at the university level, lecturing at the College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University, Madonna University, and Washtenaw Community College.

In 1986, Ovshinsky founded HKO Media, which afforded him the opportunity to work on productions with a variety of clients, including former employers such as WTVS, WDIV-TV, and WXYZ-TV. With HKO, he was also able to realize his dream of producing “local-for-national” documentaries about Detroit, including Voodoo Man of Heidelberg Street (1990), Close to Home – The Tammy Bocommino Story (1992), and The Last Hit: Children and Violence (1997). HKO Media productions received some of the highest awards in broadcasting, including a National Emmy and a George Foster Peabody Award for Close to Home – The Tammy Bocommino Story, and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for The Last Hit: Children and Violence.

During the economic recession of 2006 in Michigan, Ovshinsky transformed HKO Media from a production company into a creative consulting service. As a creative consultant, Ovshinsky received a commission from Family Communications Inc. to create a PBS children’s series to replace Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which resulted Ovshinsky’s work on The Mighty Hubble. Ovshinsky closed HKO Media in 2012.

Please note:

Where applicable, copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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