Wednesday, November 23, 2011

JFK's Assassination

November 22, 1963. Forty-eight years ago yesterday. For those of us who were alive then it does not seem possible that this kind of time has passed and so quickly. For those who were born after Kennedy was killed it was an historic event, for me it is a personal history.

There is a significant psychological difference between someone’s personal and professional history and what is historic for another.

I was a college student when John F. Kennedy ran for the presidency and I was a young journalist when he was assassinated. I was news director for a radio station in Syracuse, New York. I was also associated with a television station and needless to say the focus for days was on the assassination.

In those days no one had the technological abilities we have today to get an instant picture or a report from the scene. To get a live picture from Dallas took time and telephone landlines. It was not easy.

The late Walter Cronkite of CBS did most of his reporting from what was called a flash studio. There was a stationary camera in a small studio and the camera was always hot; ready to go if something major warranted breaking into regular programming.

Dan Rather was a local crime reporter for the CBS affiliate in Dallas. Through his local contacts he confirmed to the CBS network that the President was dead. The wire services, very prominent at the time, also reported and confirmed his death.

NBC News had David Brinkley and Chet Huntley. ABC, a young fledgling network at the time, had Murphy Martin and I believe Howard K. Smith.

It was a time of great turmoil and fear. It was, to use only half of Dickens’s opening line in a Tale of Two Cities, “it was the worst of times. Speculation was rampant with conspiracies and rumors.

Today, television outlets have the ability to get a picture from just about any spot on the globe and to do so quickly; a feat unheard of 48-years ago. In many ways I’m not sure which is better, instantaneous reportage and unbridled analysis or dogged reporting skills with proper and thoughtful analysis.

I will think about this, but not for very long.

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