45 Years Ago: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
WASHINGTON — On Nov. 22, 1963, UPI teletype machines in newsrooms across the country suddenly stopped transmitting a story on a Minneapolis murder trial to report breaking news: "Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade today in downtown Dallas."
Within minutes, Americans heard the ominous report, first on radio and then television. An hour later, they learned the 35th president of the United States was dead.
To mark the 45th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Newseum’s newest exhibit looks back at the newspapers, magazines and photographs that reported the tragedy and the stories behind the coverage. The exhibit opens Nov. 18, 2008, in the News Corporation News History Gallery.
Journalists didn’t have laptops, digital cameras or cell phones four decades ago. But using typewriters, film and land-line telephones, they reported every breaking development — from Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was pronounced dead, to Love Field, where Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president, to the Texas Theatre, where suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.
Television networks carried nonstop, commercial-free coverage for nearly four days. Two days after the assassination, TV viewers who were tuned to NBC, the only network that carried live coverage of Oswald’s jail transfer, witnessed the first live murder on television when nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot the accused assassin at point-blank range. The following day, more than 93 percent of U.S. TV households watched Kennedy’s funeral.
Also on display in the News Corporation News History Gallery are the original UPI bulletin about the shooting in Dallas, historic newspapers reporting the assassination and scripts and notes from radio reporter Ike Pappas, who witnessed Oswald’s murder while taping an on-the-scene report.
Other stories about the Kennedy assassination in the Newseum include:
- • TV coverage of the assassination, in the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery.
- • The story behind the award-winning photograph of Oswald’s murder, in the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery.
The Newseum-produced book "President Kennedy Has Been Shot" is available in the Newseum Store or may be ordered online. The book features interviews with journalists who covered the assassination and comes with a CD containing actual vintage news reports, including the live broadcast of Oswald’s murder.