Tricounty News

50 years ago

Television is saturated lately with documentaries about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and other events and issues of long-ago era. I’ve probably watched each one at least twice. I can’t seem to get enough of them.

Now, all these years later, they are showing video and photos that had not before been made public. At least one of the shows used modern-day forensics to prove that the Warren Commission Report was thorough and accurate. Fascinating stuff.

Here are a few things I’ve learned. 

The term “news anchor” was coined for Walter Cronkite, a new breed of news man. Everyone remembers Cronkite as the one who broke the news of the Kennedy shooting and then his death, but he wasn’t the first. He waited until he was absolutely confident about the facts and sources, and then he broke the news as a radio-type interruption to the TV soap opera being broadcast on CBS. It took 20 minutes back then to warm up and align a TV camera (vacuum tubes), if you can imagine. 

A handful of people took videos of the presidential procession that fateful day but only one, by Abraham Zapruder, showed the actual impact of the bullets. That video was only partly released to the public until just recently, 50 years later.

There was only one phone, a car-based phone, for the entire press corps and, yes, they fought over it.

Printed news (newspapers) couldn’t keep up with the breaking events and updates in the hours and days after the assassination of Kennedy. This was the point in history when television news surpassed printed newspapers as the primary source of immediate news for the country.

At first, most people believed the Warren Commission Report. But not long after the nearly thousand-page report was released, conspiracy theories popped up all over the place. Every single conspiracy theory has pretty well been proven incredible or not possible.

All this has got me thinking. What if this tragic series of events happened today, with our current technology? Things would be greatly different.

For one, there would be nearly as many videos as there were people along the procession route. And they’d all be posted on Facebook or YouTube within minutes of the shots being fired. How many “likes” do you think there would be for the official post that the president is dead?

Within a month, there would be several made-for-TV movies on air. And several more spinoffs on TV series like Law & Order that are similar to the assassination or conspiracy theories.

Marina Oswald, Lee’s widow, would be on all 128 talk shows and eventually on Dancing with the Stars or something.

Perhaps it’s all better left in 1963, in that black-and-white but occasionally color world of Camelot, where things were much simpler. The world lost its innocence Nov. 22, 1963, but I think it’s okay to wax nostalgic about it now and then. It’s okay to relish those simpler times.