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
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.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs