In The Echo Chamber: JFK Assassination Anniversary

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Tanya Silverman

By Tanya Silverman

President Kennedy in the limousine in Dallas, Texas, on Main Street, minutes before the assassination. Photo by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News. Image courtesy of Baylor University Collections of Political Materials.

Last Friday, on Nov. 22, 50 years officially passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. An obviously acknowledged American event, it has, throughout these past few days, become subject to a plethora of new news write-ups and re-exposed original accounts.

Gearing up for the assassination anniversary, the writers for The New York Times blog, “City Room”, describe an investigatory adventure where they travel up to the Bronx to observe a house where JFK spent his childhood. They pronounce the present-day structure as “creepy”, speak with some neighbors about how unkempt it looks, and in the published article, let readers know that JFK got a D in French. This brief report on matters of his early life was on Nov. 20th.

Then, to build on material for the very end of JFK’s life, The New York Times took things down to Dallas on the 22nd to report on the commemoration in the city he was shot. Acknowledging the former Texas Book Depository and Dealey Plaza, the author describes the cloudy climate, the moment of silence and the subsequent sounds from bagpipes and speeches.

He also incorporates a spin about how Dallas was long-plagued with the responsibility for this shooting and how the city coped with its long-lasting guilt.

Also on the 22nd, the Times printed an article quoting American journalists, authors and politicians on their personal memories during that day in 1963:

“I was pumping gas in Great Falls Mont…”

“I was a young lawyer…”

“I was in my dorm room…”

And several interviewees recall the pithy lines they heard when people broke the news to them:

“’Someone shot the president.’”

“’The president’s been killed.’”

“’You don’t know? The president has been shot.’”

Beyond exploring the reflective side of things at present, the Times also provides a resource for readers to travel back to the actual assassination period by scanning and showing its edition from Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963.

A virtual version of this 50-year-old newspaper (that was then ten cents), internet users can click around to read the numerous JFK-related stories published that day: a shocking the-death-by-sniper headline on the front page, a photo of Jackie Kennedy with blood-stained stockings on the third, eyewitness descriptions of the scene on the fifth and foreign reactions on the eighth. The “John F Kennedy Assassination Coverage” further chronicles Times newspapers from the days after, where readers can look into original 1963 reporting of public mourning, the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the funeral in Arlington.

The New York Times is only one of very many papers that published such front-page news stories in November 1963. Cleveland.com put up an online series of American front pages reporting on the assassination, which includes the same The New York Times image, as well as those of the Oregonian, Miami Herald, The Boston Globe, Syracuse Herald-Journal, and so on.

In addition to virtual versions of old front-page news, Cleveland.com has also published its own article series, “The JFK Assassination’s 50th anniversary”, taking events day-by-day, from Nov. 22 through Nov. 25. Each one of these daily articles embeds 50-year-old CBS videos of their respective dates. Viewers can watch anything from 2-hour NBC and ABC coverage segments during the 22nd to funeral footage and eternal flame ignition on the 25th.

Countless other news sources are publishing specified series of multi-media JFK memorabilia. The Oregonian put up several photo chains, including one from the last day of the President’s life, along with a separate then-and-now sequence that takes old photos of Houston and Dallas landmarks from 1963 and places them in front of the same scenes in 2013. The Los Angeles Times published a story where Dallas residents reflect on the day of the assassination, such as a nurse who worked at Parkland Hospital (where Kennedy was taken after being shot), along with a man who spoke with a stranger who he later found out was Lee Harvey Oswald.

The aforementioned personal accounts, photographs, news reports, old newspapers, new analyses, event coverage, and early-life investigation are only a fraction of spins that the American media has produced out of the JFK 50th anniversary. To sufficiently keep up with all of the revamped original media coverage from the JFK assassination – along with the angles that have been recently explored – would be an incredible time commitment.

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