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At this point, I've been watching the CBSnews.com stream for 90 minutes. What was it like for all of us as we, one by one, came home from work or school and jumped into the live coverage? 50 years later, my heart is still racing.

Random observations:
The newsroom--arranged in the horseshoe shape that characterized newspaper city rooms of the era. With Cronkite in the middle.

Teletype machines clacking and ringing in the background, as presumably low-level newsroom employees hover over them, rip the reports off the machine, deliver them to copy editors and run back to the machines. Cronkite's desk piles up with teletype reports.

The rotary-dial phone sitting on Cronkite's news desk.

Watching the stream, you can see that this spontaneous reporting of a huge news story created the model for all breaking news coverage that we've seen since. It's worth watching just to see that. One big difference is that the JFK coverage didn't get--as braking stories routinely do today--a logo and a theme song.  The old way was better: more immediate, more real, unpackaged, unvarnished. The news itself was the centerpiece, not the graphic design.

Most people remember Walter Cronkite as the man who brought us the news. But--90 minutes into it--we see Charles Collingwood taking over [Cronkite deserved a break--probably needed one--you have to wonder what he did when he left the desk] and doing an equally amazing job of filtering the bulletins, adding spontaneous commentary and background.

It's worth noting that the CBS on-air reporters came from print media and radio. They were not news readers or actors.

2:30 pm CST: Reporter Neil Strasser tells us that 3 jets are preparing to leave Washington DC to bring members of the Kennedy family to Dallas.  I think that was incorrect news. But, again, they were scrambling to report everything that came over the wires. The first draft is often wrong.

At this point, it's not clear if VP Lyndon Johnson has taken the oath of office. But CBS is already calling him president.

Walter comes to the news desk to report that schools have been dismissed, adding that his own children's school was dismissed early because "the children were weeping so much that school could not continue."

A scary bit of information at the time: A plane with Kennedy Administration officials, which had been flying over the Pacific, had been turned around to head back to DC. This may have been a moment when I began to worry that America was falling apart.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Life's a dance you learn as you go; sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

    by gloriasb on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 12:33:29 PM PST

  •  had the same feeling (0+ / 0-)

    of dread of even more happening

    similar on 9/11

  •  Not Really Unprecedented. The NASA Manned (0+ / 0-)

    space launches always featured extended coverage in those days, that could go on for hours or so because of the many delays caused by technical or weather issues.

    John Glenn's first US orbital launch a year and 3/4 earlier didn't go till the 11th try, and there was around an hour of holds before the launch could happen.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 01:00:41 PM PST

  •  I've been watching ABC (0+ / 0-)

    They were showing local Dallas coverage from the day. I was surprised at how quickly (within a few hours) they got film of the book depository, the arrest of Oswald at the movie theater, and even a photo of Oswald (although at that point identified as the shooter of a police officer).

    Also much incorrect reporting in the heat of the moment. They said a secret service officer was shot, that the body would be staying in Dallas, that Johnson would be sworn in in Washington, etc. Still, given the technology of the times, it was a commendable job.

    •  the got Oswald in an hour (0+ / 0-)

      and the arrest report said he shot the President even though they were arresting him, ostensibly, for shooting that police officer, Tippet.

      SInce nowadays we've all watched plenty of detective/crime/police based TV-reality and not-we all know how extraordinarily strange that one tidbit is.

      The got them man who shot the President in an hour and soon after were interviewed as saying they were sure they found the right man, case closed.

      The body staying in Dallas wasn't a bad mistake because according to TX law it was supposed to stay in Dallas. The Secret Service ran right over what the Dallas Police and Coroner wanted and they weren't happy with it. Probably some reporter had checked the law and/or asked the TX authorities on what would happen. But it didn't.

  •  I remember being let out of school I was in 4th (0+ / 0-)

    grade I had to walk through the middle of downtown to get home, I can still remember seeing people standing at some storefronts looking at the tvs on display,  I will never forget seeing all those people crying.

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