Kennedy and changing TV journalism


With the JFK assassination 50th anniversary upon us today, many people are looking back on how this event has shaped history. One thing it did change was the way Americans watched TV for news.

It is said that through the coverage that CBS broadcast about McCarthyism in the 1950s, this was the rise of broadcast journalism. But the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 also made a large impact and marked the point when Americans began to get most of their news and information from television.

From the time there were reports of the first shot fired on that fateful day to days later when the funeral was broadcast live, Americans were focused on their television sets. Until this event, on-going live coverage of a major news event had not happened.

Broadcast journalism has evolved in the sense that now it follows the subject from the beginning to the end. Reports are a narrative now. It became the most accessible medium of news. (Until the Internet came to play, however.)

Kennedy had won the hearts of many Americans by using the television. Since TV was becoming more of a commodity for everyone to have in their homes, people were more in tune with Kennedy and his family and they were more aware of the Kennedys because of the images the TV provided. During the Kennedy/Nixon debates, for example, in the 1960 campaign for president, more than 70 million viewers were tuned in and this is around the time when people in the U.S. were purchasing their first television sets.

When people look back on the assassination, what is mostly remembered are the images that TV had provided at the time, which includes the youngest Kennedy child, John Jr., saluting his dead father during the funeral procession.

The arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassination by Jack Ruby was also televised that weekend. It was the first time a murder had been televised live to the nation and world. Something that was new to the world at the time.

News has always been about immediacy and accuracy but, after all this happened, it soon became more investigative and thoughtful about the events that were occurring.

These series of events would also shape coverage of the Vietnam War later in the decade as well. The advancement of technology continued to grow and the maturity of broadcast journalism did as well. It became more known that televised news was a more profitable news medium and this was the start of the decline of print journalism.

Broadcast journalism is what helped bring the American people together during that time of despair and has continued to through history and the present.

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