News / USA

JFK Assassination a Case Study in Live Television News Coverage

JFK Assassination a Case Study in Live Television News Coveragei
X
November 19, 2013 1:53 AM
Fifty years ago, word of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy reached many Americans by television, a relatively new and unproven medium for news coverage. The events in Dallas, as reported by those covering the tragedy, became a case study for all television news organizations. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports
Kane Farabaugh
Fifty years ago, word of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy reached many Americans by television, a relatively new and unproven medium for news coverage.  The events in Dallas, as reported by those covering the tragedy, became a case study for all television news organizations. 

When radio reporter Bob Huffaker set out to cover Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas, it marked a new shift in the way his organization, KRLD, was covering a live news event.

“Up until then I had done radio broadcasts from many scenes, but that was the first day we marshaled our mobile television facilities,” he said.

Newspapers, with daily editions in the morning and evening, were still popular sources of news and information, recalls former Fort Worth Star-Telegram Reporter Bob Schieffer.

“They didn’t, just quite didn’t believe it, until they saw it in the paper. And, then, that kind of made it sort of official," he said. "From that weekend on, of course, television would be the place where most people got their news.”

What was on television during a four-day ordeal, from the time Kennedy was shot to his funeral in Washington, was a mixture of fact, speculation, and unfiltered drama, as millions of people watched events, such as the killing of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, unfold on live television.

Through much of that coverage, Southern Methodist University history professor Jeffrey Engel says the American people got a healthy dose of misinformation.

“It was a truly chaotic situation, and constantly there is news being filtered into a news media and they are doing the natural thing… they hear something, and they are telling people about it,” he said.

Huffaker says he tried to be calm in a storm of unfolding events amid a sea of misinformation.

“We were concentrating all this time on reporting things as calmly as possible, to somehow encourage the world to keep its sanity,” he said.

In the resulting coverage, a steady stream of facts about the suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, came through Huffaker’s competition, KLIF radio news reporter Gary DeLaune, who had a well-placed source inside the Dallas Police Department.

“And I would walk out in the hall for coffee or something, and he would say OK this is the story, and I knew this stuff before it had ever made it publicly, and they were all factual," he said.

But Engel says an analysis of the overall coverage shows the perils of live reporting to feed a public anxious for information.

“It’s really a case study of what we see today in many ways in which information is perhaps processed faster than people have time to think about it or verify it,” he said.

Schieffer, who moved on from print reporting to become a television reporter and, ultimately, a network news anchor, says the look behind the curtain of television journalism in its infancy during the Kennedy assassination had a downside.

“What they discovered was that it was not altogether a dignified process, people pushed and shoved and shouted, and there was a lot of back and forth," he said.  "In a way, it may have affected the credibility of all journalism just seeing the process.”

But Schieffer adds it was the first time the American public saw that process, and, since then, the demand for more information sooner has only increased.

You May Like

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid