Transcript of "Television Media in National Crisis"
Television Media in National Crisis
A national crisis is an unusual period of great danger or “intolerable difficulty”
that a whole nation suffers and endures. Mass media, as part of the fabric of a society,
have to undergo a profound impact and play their irreplaceable roles in dealing with this
special period of time. This study will examine the roles American television media
played during the two national crises in history, the 1963 assassination of President John
F. Kennedy and the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, and the crisis management
strategies the television media used in these two events. This study can help us
understand the medium’s crisis management strategy and the tendency of its
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Definition of Terms……………………………………………………………………....iii
Statement of Justification.………………………………………………………….…….iv
Statement of Organization...……………………………………………………………..vii
Chapter I: Timeline of the 1963 Assassination of President John F. Kennedy..………….1
Chapter II: Technologies of Television Medium in 1963
The Coming of “the First Television Society”…….………………………….9
Chapter III: Television Media and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
The First Television Coverage of National Crisis…………………………...19
Chapter IV: Timeline of the 2001 September 11 Terrorist Attacks……………………...36
Chapter V: Technologies of Television Medium in 2001
The Arrival of “the Instantaneous Communications”...…………….…….....45
Chapter VI: Television Media and the September 11 Terrorist Attacks
The Television Coverage of the First National Crisis in the 21st Century.......52
Chapter VII: American Television Media in the National Crises:
An Analysis of the Television Media’s Roles……………………...................77
Chapter VIII: Conclusions…………………………………………………….................90
I express my gratitude to Mr. Thomas J. Notton, Dr. Albert M. Katz and
Mr. Brent L. Notbohm for their time and constructive insights throughout this research
I would like to thank Dr. Martha J. Einerson, Dr. Cynthia R. Graham,
Mr. Michael D. Simonson and Mr. Todd S. Kneeland for teaching me many qualities
that will help me professionally.
I would like to dedicate this thesis to my parents, Mr. Zhang Guo Yong and
Mrs. Zhou Liang Ying, for their love and support. They have given me a perfect family.
A special thanks goes to Mr. John H. Hagfeldt and Ms. Evelyn M. Hagfeldt for
their support and great friendship.
I would also like to thank Ms. Cherie A. Sawinski, Mr. Steven A. Houghton and
Ms. Melinda Yingling, for the kind help.
I am grateful to the staff at the Jim Dan Hill Library of the University of
Wisconsin-Superior for the assistance made the completion of this paper.
In Memory of Dr. William H. Stock
This study will examine the roles American television media played during the
two national crises in history, the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and
the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, and the crisis management strategies the
television media used in these two events.
Definition of Terms:
Terrorism: For the purpose of this study, terrorism means a “symbolic act
designed to influence political behavior by extranormal means, entailing the use of threat
or violence;” “it is a form of psychological warfare whose prime purpose is to
propagandize and disorient a target population by attacking certain symbols of the state
and the society.”
Propaganda: For the purpose of this study, propaganda means the “deliberate
and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior
to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”
Public Information: For the purpose of this study, public information means any
message, material or knowledge of fact disseminated from an organization or institution
to the public without any deliberate and systematic attempt to manipulate the public
Thornton, T.P. (1964). Terror as a Weapon of Political Agitation. In Eckstein, H., etc., Internal War. NY:
Free Press. P73.
Kelly, M.J., & Mitchell, T.H. (1981). Transnational Terrorism and the Western Elite Press. Political
Communication and Persuasion. NY: Crane, Russak & Company, Inc..P269296.
Jowett, G.S., & O’Donnell, V. (1992). Propaganda and Persuasion (2 Ed.). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE
ABC: American Broadcasting Company
CBS: Columbia Broadcasting System
NBC: National Broadcasting Company
CNN: Cable News Network
FCC: Federal Communications Commission
PBS: Public Broadcasting Service
Statement of Justification:
A national crisis is an unusual period of great danger or “intolerable difficulty”
that a whole nation suffers and endures. In a time of national crisis, every social element
is subjected to a severe test. As to the field of communication, the rate of information
flow is enormously increased. Immediacy and pervasiveness become two striking
qualities of this information flow during the time of national crisis. An unstable and
unbalanced state can arise at the same time.
Mass media, as part of the fabric of a society, undoubtedly, also have to undergo a
profound impact and play their irreplaceable roles in dealing with this special period of
time. There has been a great deal of study of the content of mass media in a variety of
contexts, but still relatively little study of what role(s) mass media, especially television
media, play in a time of national crisis. However, the meaning of studying television
medium in the context of national crisis is significant. First, during this kind of special
James, R.K., & Gilliland, B.E. (2001). Crisis Intervention Strategies (4 Ed.). CA: Wadsworth/Thomson
Learning, Inc. P3
event, television medium employs the then most advanced media technologies (socalled
hardware), which can give us an insight into how the technologies help media exercise
their roles. Second, television medium constitutes an irreplaceable component in a
society. Through studying television medium’s roles under the circumstance of national
crisis can help us understand the medium’s crisis management strategy and the tendency
of its development.
Two national crises are chosen for the purpose of this study. One is the 1963
assassination of President John F. Kennedy; the other is the 2001 September 11 terrorist
attacks. Like society’s response to crisis, generally, mass media’s response to crisis may
have the following five stages. These are: first, the predisaster period; second, the period
of detection and communication of a specific threat; third, the period of immediate,
relatively unorganized response; fourth, the period of organized response; and fifth, the
postdisaster period. In some cases, not all five of these stages may appear when mass
media respond to a crisis. In this study, the events of the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s
assassination and the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks may not have all the five stages
due to their characteristics of unusual suddenness and unpredictability. For instance, in
these two events, there was no apparent warning of any kind that caught attentions of the
public and there was no time people could prepare, physically or psychologically, to meet
the threats. Therefore, in my study, I will explore the issues within the stages of the
period of immediately, relatively unorganized response and the period of organized
response, or (and) the postdisaster period.
Greenberg, B.S.& Parker, E.B. (1965). The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social
Communication in Crisis. CA: Stanford University Press. P6.
There are many differences between the event of the 1963 John F. Kennedy’s
assassination and the event of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks. One of the
differences is the casualty. The assassination of the American President John F. Kennedy
is more that of psychological and political 6 , while the September 11 terrorist attacks are
more that of physical, psychological and political because of the greater scale of the
However, the natures of the two crises are the same. They are both terrorist
attacks on the symbols of the nation though, in 1963, there were no such clear definitions
of “terrorism” or “terrorist” as the ones we use today to refer to the extreme violence of
this kind. In these two events, one is the President of the United States, which is a
political symbol of the nation; the other is the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
which are two of economic and political or military symbols of the nation. The two
events are both “unprecedented” in terms of their significance in their perspective era of
mass media. Although John F. Kennedy is neither the first nor the only American
president in history who was assassinated, he is, indeed, the first American President
whose tragedy was covered by television media. In other words, television as a medium,
for the first time in its history, covered a national crisis on such a high level as never
before. Again, in 2001, the television media covered a largestscale national crisis, the
September 11 terrorist attacks, for the first time in history.
The study of the media’s behavior in times of national crisis, specifically, the
television media’s roles in these two events, is still a new area in the field of mass
Greenberg, B.S.,& Parker, E.B. P7.
communication. One of the reasons probably is that the recent September 11 terrorist
attacks are so “unprecedented” from many aspects, either in terms of the scale of the
crisis itself or in terms of its many impacts on the society as well as the media; the other
possible reason could be the factor of time, that is, the September 11 terrorist attacks just
happened less than two years ago (from the time when this research began) and we are
still in an era of fighting against terrorism, the tragedy of September 11 is still too close
for us to fully understand everything, including the mass media’s behaviors on that day.
This research, hopefully, could be among the earliest efforts to explore and comprehend
the roles of mass media, especially television medium, during such special period of time.
Statement of Organization:
To analyze the behaviors of the media, for example, the news report, one of the
most important things for most researchers to do is to examine the context(s) in which the
specific phenomenon arises. This is also the first step this historical study takes. The
study of the 1963 President John F. Kennedy’s assassination will focus on the period
from November 22, 1963 to November 25, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was buried. This
study of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks will focus on the period from September
11, 2001 to the middle of October, 2001, shortly after America’s war on terrorism started
in Afghanistan. Contemporary records of these two events as well as those of different
media technologies used in these two periods, which are in form of government archives,
public reports and other relevant materials, will be collected and verified. Having
gathered background factors, I will analyze and interpret the news coverage and
behaviors of the television media during these two periods. The technique of content
analysis will also be used to help examine these data. Hopefully, similarities and
differences of the roles and crisis management strategies of the television media in two
events could to be found.
This study will only focus on the television medium. Other media, such as print,
radio, recording, film or Internet will not be the focus of this study. Many critics argue
that Internet, in today’s global information village, has grown rapidly and is widely
considered as a big challenger to the traditional television medium; however, the
television’s leading status has not changed yet and is still the most important and most
Two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Princeton Survey Research
Associates conducted a nationwide survey for the purpose of finding out where the public
had gotten most of their information about the tragic event of September 11.
The results of the survey are as follows:
Talking with others 2%
Retrieved from: LexisNexis Academic Database. Public Opinion Online, A survey of the Pew Internet &
American Life Project. The report was done in coordination with the Pew Research Center for the People &
the Press, September 15, 2001.
Don’t Know/Refused 1%
By the time when John F. Kennedy’s assassination happened, ABC, CBS and
NBC were the only three major television networks in America. Therefore, my study on
this event will focus on these three commercial networks. Nowadays, there are more
television networks than four decades ago, such as FOX NEWS, CNN and PBS besides
the above three major broadcast networks. In order to limit the scope of the topic to a
manageable study, in the study of the television coverage of the 2001 September 11
terrorist attacks, the three biggest broadcast networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, and the
biggest cable television network, CNN, will be mainly focused because of their
extraordinary importance in the public life of the United States.
Timeline of the 1963 Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
(American Central Standard Time)
Friday, November 22, 1963
11:40 a.m.: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, together with Mrs. Kennedy and their
party, arrived at Love Field, Dallas, Texas for a fiveday trip. This trip was
primarily for a political reason—to help heal a rift in his party there and to
hold the state for the Democrats in 1964. 8
11:50 a.m.: The motorcade left Love Field, Texas. President John F. Kennedy sat in an
open limousine without shield. To the left of the President in the rear seat was
Mrs Kennedy. In the jump seats were: Governor Connally, who was in front
of the President, and Mrs. Connally, who was at the Governor’s left. An agent
was driving the limousine and another agent was sitting to his right. Directly
behind the Presidential limousine was an open “followup” car with eight
secret service agents. Behind the “followup” car was the VicePresidential
car carrying the Vice President and his wife. The press representatives were at
the end of the motorcade. The motorcade was to follow a circuitous eleven
mile route through downtown Dallas to the Trade Mart where the President
Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of the President Kennedy.
(1964). U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. P2.
John F. Kennedy would give a luncheon speech. 9
12:30 p.m.: President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was shot by
an assassin while the his car passed the building of the Texas School Book
12:34 p.m.: The Dallas police radio mentioned the building of Texas School Book
Depository as a possible source of the shots. First UPI flashed about the
12:36 p.m.: When President John F. Kennedy was sent to Parkland Hospital, ABC broke
into local programs with the first announcement of the shooting.
12:40 p.m.: CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite announced: “In Dallas, Texas, three shots
were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. The first reports say President
Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting”.
12:45 p.m.: The police radio broadcast a description of the suspected assassin based
primarily on one eyewitness, Howard L. Brennan’s observations. NBC reacted
and announced the shooting.
(Approximately) 1:00 p.m.: The doctors of Parkland hospital announced that President
Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of the President Kennedy.
(1964). U.S.Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. P2.
John F. Kennedy died in the emergency operation room, and the Last Rites were
administered by a priest.
1:05 p.m.: Robert F. Kennedy learned his brother was dead.
1:15 p.m.: Lee Harvey shot and killed Dallas policeman, J.D. Tippit.
1:33 p.m.: The President’s plane, Air Force One, carrying John F. Kennedy’s
body, with Mrs. Kennedy, the newly inaugurated President, Lyndon B.
Johnson and Mrs. Johnson abroad, departed Texas back to Washington.
1:36 p.m.: Mr. Malcolm Kilduff, the assistant White House press secretary, announced
the President’s death to the public.
1:38 p.m.: Cronkite of CBS delivered the news of the President’s death.
1:50 p.m.: Lee Harvey Oswald was seized after a scuffle in the Texas Theater.
2:00 p.m.: The body of President John F. Kennedy was taken from the hospital in a
bronze coffin, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy walked beside it.
(Approximately) 2:00 p.m.: Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24yearold warehouse worker, was
arrested as the suspected killer of a policeman on the street in the Oak Cliff
district, 3 miles away from where the President John F. Kennedy was shot.
2:38 p.m.: Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36 President of the United States
by Federal District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes.
3:00 p.m.: News of John F. Kennedy’s death brought official mourning at United Nations
when the General Assembly met.
3:15 p.m.: Television networks broadcasted Lee Harvey Oswald’s arrest.
5:20 p.m.: The Federal Reserve Bank at New York issued a statement declaring there was
agreement “that there is no need for special action in the financial markets.”
to prevent panic when the markets reopened.
5:58 p.m. (EST): Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington D.C.
6:14 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time): Lyndon B. Johnson’s first statement as President was
showed on television.
7:10 p.m.: Lee Harvey Osward was formally advised that he had been charged with the
murder of Patrolman J.D.Tipit.
NBC concluded its broadcasting day with a symphonic tribute from the NBC Studio
Saturday, November 23, 1963
1:40 a.m.: Chief of Police Jesse Curry announced that Oswald had been formally
arraigned on a charge of murder in the President’s death.
4:34 a.m. (EST): President Kennedy’s coffin entered the White House.
10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.: Mr. Kennedy’s body lied in the East Room of the White House,
during which time Government and diplomatic officials paid their respects.
4:51 p.m. (EST): Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed mourning on television.
Former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower spoke for the cameras, offering condolences
to the Kennedy family and expressions of faith in democratic institutions.
Instant documentary tributes to the late president appeared on all three networks. More
information trickled in about Oswald, the accused assassin, whom the Dallas police
paraded through the halls of the City jail.
Doherty, T.(1997). Assassination and Funeral of President John F. Kennedy, In Horace Newcomb.
Museum of Broadcast Communications: Encyclopedia of Television (Vol.2). Chicago and London: Fitzroy
In the evening, CBS presented a memorial concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra with
Eugene Normandy conducting.
Saturday night: The news media were informed that the transfer of Oswald would not
take place until after 10a.m. on Sunday.
Sunday, November 24, 1963
Morning: Television, radio and newspaper representatives crowded into the basement of
the city jail to record the transfer.
12:21 p.m. (EST): Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald when Oswald was being transferred
in the basement of the city jail. NBC elected to switch over from coverage of
the preparations in Washington, D.C. to the transfer of the prisoner in Dallas.
Only NBC carried the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald live. “He’s been shot!
He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot,” shouted NBC correspondent Tom
Petit, “there is absolute panic. Pandemonium has broken out.” Within minutes,
CBS broadcast its own live feed from Dallas.
1:07 p.m.: Oswald was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.
1:25 p.m.: NBC announced Oswald was dead. The rest of the day all three networks
replayed the scene again and again.
8:00 p.m. (EST): ABC telecasts A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts, a somber
variety show featuring classical music and dramatic readings from the bible
Monday, November 25, 1963
A National Day of Mourning—bore witness to an extraordinary politicalreligious
spectacle: the ceremonial transfer of the president’s coffin by wagon from the Capitol
rotunda to St. Matthews Cathedral, where the funeral mass was to be celebrated by
Richard Cardinal Cushing, and across the Potomac River for burial at Arlington National
7:00 a.m. (EST): television coverage began with scenes from Washington D.C., where
all evening mourners had been filing past the coffin in the Capitol rotunda.
10:38 a.m. (EST): the coffin was placed on the wagon for the procession to St. Matthews
Tuesday, November 26, 1963
Following the national day of mourning, the nation resumed its business. Jack Ruby, who
killed Oswald, was transferred to the county jail without notice to the press or to the
police officers who were not directly involvement in the transfer. He was later found
Technologies of Television Medium in 1963
The Coming of “the First Television Society”
By the end of 1963, the technologies of media, especially those of television
medium, had experienced a tremendous development and brought great impacts to the
society. For instance, the invention and use of videotape began to end the era of the
primitive kinescope technology and enabled, for the first time in media’s history, a filmed
event to be immediately recorded and played back; Microwave relay and coaxial cable
were more widely used to connect the growing ultrahigh frequency (UHF) and very high
frequency (VHF) television stations nationwide; The success of television via
communications satellites brought a new meaning to the mass media. These technical
achievements of broadcast journalism not only accelerated the pervasiveness of television
sets among American homes but also greatly increased the rate of dissemination of
information. An annual summary issued by the United States Information Agency,
headed by Edward R. Murrow, pointed out that the United States had more television sets
than any other country in the world and estimated that more than 56,000,000 television
sets were in use in 1963. Another study found that more than 90 percent of U.S.
households in 1960 had television sets. For the first time in history, television medium
Hiebert, R. E. (1979).Mass Media: An Introduction to Modern Communication. NY: Longman Inc.
started to challenge the status of the print in being the most powerful information source
in the United States.
For the purpose of increasing the number of information outlets and to encourage
the diversity in the media industry, in July 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed into
law legislation that required all television receiving sets shipped across state lines be able
to receive all UHF (channels 14 through 83) as well as VHF (channels 2 through 13)
frequencies. The goal of this law was to put UHF channels on a more equal technological
footing with the VHF channels. In fact, back in 1954, more than one hundred UHF
stations were already in operation in the United States. However, most television sets
made in or imported into the United States before 1962 were equipped to receive the
VHF channels only. Due to the lack of audiences and the short of advertising income,
those UHF stations were in a very difficult situation while competing with the VHF
stations. Before 1962, even those television viewers who were interested in watching
UHF had to install a tuning system called UHF converters in order to receive these
stations. These cumbersome converters, which resembled metal bow ties and sat atop
the receiver, did not allow viewers to easily “click in” the desired channel. With the
commercial networks occupying the VHF channels, the UHF channels (primarily
independent commercial and educational or noncommercial stations) were in danger of
extinction. Apparently, the immediate goal, then, of the allchannel legislation was the
preservation of these channels. The longerterm goal was the encouragement of diversity
Hudson, R.V.(1987).Mass Media: A Chronological Encyclopedia of Television, Radio, Motion Pictures,
Magazines, Newspapers, and Books in the United States. NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Lurzberg, M; Osterheld, W.,&Voegtlin, E. (1956).Essentials of Television, NY: McGraw Hill Book Co.,
(or the creation of “a multitude of tongues”) which was a guiding force behind much
FCC rulemaking at the time.
On September 12, 1962, the Federal Communications Commission set up a
deadline for implementing the allchannel legislation. It stressed that any television set
manufactured in or imported into the U.S. after April 30, 1964 be allchannel equipped.
The proposal became an official FCC order on November 21, 1962. Later amendments to
FCC rules and regulations specified performance standards for the UHF circuit in the
new receivers relating to sound and pictures quality. In January 1963, the American
Congress further mandated that all television set must be manufactured to receive UHF
and VHF stations. Noncommercial television stations and public television stations saw
this move as being crucial to their existence.
In the process of building a nationwide network of communications, the
technologies of both terrestrial microwave relay and coaxial cable were also widely used
since the early 1950s. Coaxial cable, which is used in most cable systems for long
distance communication, consists of an inner metal conductor shielded by plastic foam.
The foam is then covered with another metal conductor, and that in turn is covered by
plastic sheathing. This protected cable may either be strung on utility poles or buried
underground to connect television stations. Comparing to wire cable, the coaxial cable
Massey, K. B. (1997). “All Channel Legislation,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of
Television, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Retrieved September 20 , 2002 from www.pbs.org.
can carry much larger numbers of channels without losing the quality of the signal.
Besides the utilization of coaxial cable, microwave technology was also used within the
broadcast industry because not all television broadcast transmissions used standard
television frequencies at that time. At higher frequencies, microwave transmission can be
used. Microwaves are very short electromagnetic waves. The higher the frequency, the
farther the electromagnetic waves will travel in a direct lineofsight path between
transmitter and receiver.
By the early 1950s, major American cities were linked together by either coaxial
cable or microwave. Since video signals could be transmitted crosscountry or from coast
to coast via “hard wire” coaxial cable or microwave relay, major broadcast networks
could deliver their programming to their affiliates across the nation. Microwave mobile
units (vans with microwave transmitters attached) had been used in television news
reporting since the late 1950s. The value of microwave mobile units lies on their mobility
and the ability of quick responding to emergency events or some other breaking news.
Before the arrival of satellite communication, coaxial cable and terrestrial
microwave played an important role in conveying information to every corner of the
country, in other words, they united the nation by being the nation’s electronic nerves.
Akwule, R. (1992).Global Telecommunications: The Technology, Administrations and Policies, Boston:
Focal Press. P33.
Mullen, M. (1997). “Microwave,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television,
Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Black, J & Whitney, F.C. (1988). Introduction to Mass Communication (2 ed.). Iowa: Wm.C.Brown
While the terrestrial microwave and coaxial technology was deemed a means of
dissemination of domestic information, in the early 1960s, the communications satellite
arose to become the disseminator of international information. Launched from the Cape
Canaveral at 4:35 a.m., July 10, 1962, Telstar 1 was successfully in orbit at 4:46a.m..
Later that day, at 7:28 p.m., the first phone call was relayed through an active satellite in
space. Chairman of the Board of American Telephone and Telegraph, Frederick R.
Kappel, in Andover talked with Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Washington via the
satellite. Vice President Johnson said: “You’re coming in nicely.” A few minutes later,
the first transatlantic television broadcast between American and Europe marked the
coming of a new era in communications. Successive initiatives including communication
satellite Relay 1 and Telstar 2 were launched in December 1962 and May 1963
respectively. Telstar 1 became obsolete and was turned off on February 21, 1963. These
satellites illustrated the potential capability of a future worldwide satellite system to
provide communication between continents.
It is worthwhile to mention a historic breakthrough made on the first two Telstar
and Relay satellites. Unlike other successive geosynchronous satellites, the first two
communications satellites were randomorbit satellites. Each day, during four to five of
its nine orbits, Telstar became “visible” for only brief periods of time. A control center
was built to find it precisely, to help give it commands, to point the giant horn antenna at
it, and finally to send out across the country the phone calls, television, or data relayed
Solomon, L.(1963). TELSTAR: Communication BreakThrough By Satellite. NY: McGrawHill Book.
from Telstar to the horn. Although these early satellites were not able to relay
information continuously, they paved a road to more advanced geosynchronous satellites
which appeared later. Noticeably, they also marked the beginning of a new period of
global communication by conveying instant information to one another. On July 23,
1962, a press conference was transmitted internationally for the first time by the Telstar
satellite. In talking about the role of the satellite, President John F. Kennedy perceived
communication through satellite as an instrument for peace. “I understand that part of
today’s press conference is being relayed by the Telstar…” said Kennedy in his opening
remarks, “I think this understanding which will inevitably come from the speedier
communications is bound to increase the wellbeing and security of all people here and
across the oceans.” He believed that communication satellites would “serve our
(American) needs and those of other countries and contribute to world peace and
The invention of video tape recorder (VTR) brings what some call the most
dramatic change to television broadcasting in its history. Prior to the VTR, kinescope
was used in television industry to record television programs. “A kinescope is a film
made of a live television broadcast. Kinescopes are usually created by placing a motion
picture camera in front of a television monitor and recording the image off the monitor’s
screen while the program is being aired.” By using the Kinescope method, both precious
Berry, J.P.Jr. (1987). John F. Kennedy and the Media: The First Television President, University Press of
Retrieved October 20, 2002 from: http://www.umich.edu/~newzies/main/camera/images.html.
O'Dell ,C. (1997). “Kinescope,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television, Chicago:
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
time and picture quality could be lost, and the poor picture quality it caused also
prohibited any extensive reuse of the films. In 1956, Ampex, an electronics firm in
California, first introduced the VR1000 videotape recorder for professional
broadcasting. Since then, television programs were no longer unstable and ephemeral
events and could be repeatedly broadcast without losing picture quality. The television
industry responded so enthusiastically that Ampex could not produce machines fast
enough. It was the true beginning of the video age. West Coast television stations could,
without sacrificing picture quality, delay live East Coast news and entertainment
broadcasts for three hours until evening prime time, when most viewers reached their
homes from work. Meanwhile, Videotape had wide impact everywhere on earth,
including remote villages, where inexpensive tapes brought information and
In 1963, during the concentrated four day television coverage of President
Kennedy’s assassination, almost all of these contemporarily best media technologies
were used. People in the nation and around the world experienced not just a piece of
heartbreaking news, but vivid images of pain and horror. On November 25, 1963, a
national day of mourning, a new chapter was also being written into the media’s history.
By then, the television coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination became the
“most intensive coverage of an event in terms of distance and time in the medium’s
Fang, I. (1997). “Videotape,” in Newcomb, H & O'Dell, C. The Encyclopedia of Television, Chicago:
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
history.” Three major networks, NBC, ABC and CBS, used approximately a total of 119
cameras to cover the event of the President’s funeral. Most of those cameras were
deployed in different locations from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery. Then,
the shots caught by the cameras were sent to a control unit in the Capital, from where the
networks broadcast the live and recorded news coverage to the viewers.
In New York, NBC had the responsibility for transmitting the funeral services on
the communications satellite. Through Relay communications satellite, the President
Kennedy’s funeral rites were broadcast live to 23 countries (an estimated combined
population of more than 600 million), the largest number ever to be assembled for a live
program. In Britain and Soviet Union, the scheduled programs were suspended on a day
of America’s national mourning; audiences saw part of the funeral procession in live
transmission from Washington D.C. by the communications satellite Telstar. Reuters,
the news Agency, said it was believed to be the first time Soviet television officials had
presented to the public a program that was transmitted from the United States by a
satellite. In Japan, it should have been a happy day for Japanese television audiences
because the first live American television transmission cross the pacific by means of the
communications satellite was successfully received. Instead of hearing a greeting
Shepard, R.F, Television Pools Camera Coverage: Measures Set a Record for Distance and Duration, The
New York Times, November 26, 1963. P11.
Shepard, R.F, P11.
Shepard, R.F, P12.
Shepard, R.F, P12.
The New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963.
Adams, V., TV will Continue A Sober Approach, The New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 1963,
message from President Kennedy via Relay 1, the communications satellite, Japanese
people received the tragic news of the death of the American President.
After the tragedy, satellite technologies also provided an opportunity for
Americans to see the feelings of people in other nations. The images of world leaders and
people expressing sympathy and condolence at American Embassies were beamed to the
United States by Relay and Telstar satellites. 39
Videotapes of the programs on the President Kennedy’s assassination and his
funeral were sent to many countries to fulfill their need for more information and also to
some countries who had difficulties in receiving satellite transmission. ABC, CBS, NBC
and UPI Newsfilm sent countless hours of films covering all aspects of the President’s
assassination via jet transports to countries on all continents, for example, CBS films said
it had more than 150 people on both the East and West Coasts involved in roundthe
clock operations to get processed films on their way as soon as possible. At one point it
held a Londonbound plane for an hour at New York’s Idlewild airport so that films of
the arrival at Washington of President Johnson and the Casket containing President
Kennedy’s body would reach Europe in time for airing on Saturday. ABC said Soviet
television had purchased a onehour filmed news program from them on the Friday
events. The program was sent by plane to Moscow on Saturday, November 23, 1963.
The New York Times, November 24, 1963, P14.
Mayo, J.B. Jr., A.B. (1966). Thesis: Network Television Coverage of the Assassination of President
Kennedy and the Succession of President Johnson, the University of Texas. P59.
Broadcast and Cable, December 2, 1963, P56P58.
Adams, V.(1963). P9.
Meanwhile, the technologies of microwave relay and coaxial cable were used to
feed the coverage throughout Canada and Latin America. For example, after President
Kennedy’s assassination, ABC international affiliates in Mexico and the local network
made an immediate arrangement to feed the live coverage through cable into Mexico City
from an ABC affiliate in Laredo.
Millions of people all over the world viewed these tragic scenes on television. For
the first time, viewing at the same stories, people around the globe paused together to
honor the past President of the United States. Even Panama Canal suspended
operations. In a time of national crisis, a wide support and unity among the people is a
key to overcome the difficulty. With the help of the technologies of television medium,
informing and uniting people in the nation and even across the globe in such a very short
period of time—almost instantaneously, become possible. The technologies of television
medium in 1963 helped the realization of “the first television society,” in addition, it also
pointed out the direction of the future development of television media technology from
then on, that is, the technology of the instantaneous communication.
Grosvenor, M.B. (March, 1964) “The Last Full Measure,” National Geographic, Vol.125, No.3, P126.
Television Media and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
The First Television Coverage of National Crisis
November 22 , 1963 might have been what Walter Cronkite, CBS news anchor,
called, “a day like all days.” However, later, several horrible gunshots changed the day,
changed the history and also changed the mass media forever. American President John
F. Kennedy was assassinated on this black Friday. Suddenly, people began to realize that
the nation was in a crisis that they would have never expected in their lives. A great
nation lost its great leader and at the same time it could be in a great danger. The public
was stunned by this unfolding reality and was desperately in need of more information,
answer and help to overcome this national crisis. The moment the first shooting
happened, mass media, especially the newly developed television media, were instantly
being pushed into a test they had never prepared for.
As Air Force One touched down at Love Field in Dallas, Texas in the morning of
November 22, 1963, through televisions, many people in Dallas and across the nation
watched President John F. Kennedy, an idol of a generation, walking out of the cabin and
waving his hands to the crowd. No one at that moment could expect any awful thing
would happen later that day during this President’s short trip in Dallas. However, the
national and local television media had prepared, to some extent, to fully cover the
President’s visit. Besides the large production crews of their own, three major networks,
ABC, CBS and NBC had their affiliate stations in Dallas and Fort Worth, a neighboring
city, ready to assist to cover the President’s visit. These local television stations are:
ABCTV affiliate WFAATV (Fort Worth), CBSTV affiliate KRLDTV (Dallas), and
NBCTV affiliate WBAPTV (Fort Worth). These affiliates proved to play an
irreplaceable role in covering the whole event of that day, as Wes Wise, reporter of
KRLDTV, said, “Dallas reporters portrayed Dallas (in the coverage of the tragedy of
1963) in their ways.” 45
At approximately 11:50 a.m., the Presidential motorcade left Love Field destined
for the Trade Mart where President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to have a luncheon
speech. The good weather allowed the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to
ride through Dallas in an openair limousine. Their hosts, the Governor John Connally
and his wife, rode in the jump seats in front of them. Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s
car was behind the presidential limousine. Meanwhile, all correspondents from the
national and local press were taking the two buses following the Vice President. The
three major television networks also sent their reporters. For example, Robert Clark,
Acting White House Correspondent, was from ABC; Robert MacNeil, riding in the first
bus, was a reporter from NBC; Robert Pierpoint, riding in the second bus, was from
CBS. Although so many national correspondents were in the motorcade, they were still
unable to catch the tragic moment of President Kennedy’s assassination because those
press vehicles were lined up last in the motorcade.
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Videotape), 1998, TX: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Garner, J. (2000).We Interrupt This Broadcast (2 Ed.). IL: Sourcebooks, Inc. P49.
When the motorcade passed through the streets of downtown Dallas, thousands of
excited onlookers were greeting the President. President Kennedy also stopped several
times to greet those wellwishers. These pictures were transmitted live all over the nation
to almost every turnedon television set through cable and microwave relay. Many
viewers still remembered that, nearly a month before, American ambassador to the
United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been attacked in Dallas, which was caught on
videotape by some reporters and then was showed again and again on the national
television networks. Since then, Dallas had been deemed a politically hostile territory by
many people. It seemed that the scenes of Dallas residents’ welcoming the President
would dispel the misgivings of many Americans about the political atmosphere of this
city. Americans saw Dallas as a friendly city again, at least, for the moment.
At 12:30 p.m., when this Presidential motorcade was passing by the Texas School
Book Depository, several gunshots ripped through the air and stunned everyone present.
Governor Connally was struck in the shoulder, wrist and leg. President Kennedy was hit
in the neck and back, and finally suffered a massive fatal would in the rear portion of his
head. Meanwhile, as the press vehicles stopped, the reporters ran to search for
telephones because they had no other means to get in touch with the stations, NBC’s
Robert MacNeil found one telephone in a nearby building—the Texas School Book
Depository, the same building from which the shots had been fired. This was but the first
of many reports MacNeil would phone in from Dallas. Based on what he saw, he
described the situation briefly and cautiously:
“Several shots were fired as President Kennedy’s motorcade passed through
downtown Dallas. Crowds screamed and lay down on the grass as the motorcade went
by. Police broke away and began chasing an unknown gunman across some railroad
tracks. It was not known if the shots were aimed at the President. Repeat, it is not known
if the shots were aimed at the President.” However, telephone lines were soon clogged
and did not work property because of a large number of phone calls at the same time.
Although the press missed the live picture of the attack and the news footage was
only black and white, some amateur photographers happened to catch the shootings on
color film that later enabled the public to witness the horror. However, at this very early
stage of the national crisis, without live news coverage and other reliable instant
communication methods, television media had to heavily rely on the Associate Press
(AP) for quick information. At NBC news headquarters in Burbank, California, Tom
Pettit read the AP bulletins on the air about the shooting in Dallas as they came in. All the
West Coast NBC stations, meanwhile, received this news from headquarter and began to
broadcast it. After twenty minutes, the NBC news headquarters in New York assumed the
control of the entire NBC network including the West Coast stations. Moments later, Bill
Ryan and Chet Huntley of NBCTV, joined by Frank McGee and David Brinkley,
appeared on camera and began their continuous coverage of the event. These four men
shared the anchor position on NBC throughout the four days. Grieved over the
unexpected tragedy, Pettit’s following words in his first report might reflected the
feelings of many other journalists in covering this national crisis.
Mayo, P16, MacNeil,R. from a broadcast recording contained in the RCA Victor record (#LOC1088)
“A Time to Keep: 1963.”
“… It had been an unnerving experience, because the truth of the news had been
as difficult to grasp in the reading as it must have been in the hearing. The task of
continuing expanding news coverage overrode emotion.”
On CBS, the soap opera As the World Turns was interrupted by a graphic that
read, “CBS News Bulletin” after the shootings happened. Walter Cronkite, news anchor
of CBS, announced the news with cracking voice off camera,
“In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in
downtown Dallas. The first reporters say that President Kennedy has been seriously
wounded by this shooting...”
Walter Cronkite later also described this first reporting of the President’s
assassination as if “it was a running battle between my emotions and my news sense.”
ABC was among one of the first networks that switched directly to Dallas, where
their affiliate WFAATV started reporting from the scene of the luncheon where
President Kennedy was to have an address. When the affiliate gathered the early
information and reported them to the nation, the staff in the New York office was able to
plan their next move. Camera crews and correspondents, videotape facilities and live
remote vans, writers, film editors, and news executives were ready to be dispatched to
Dallas. Correspondent Bill Lord went to Dallas from New York to support Acting ABC
White House Correspondent Robert Clark and his production crew. From New York,
ABC’s producer Roger Sharp and his crew also flew to Dallas. They all reached Dallas
by Friday night to take over ABCTV’s operations on the scene. As WFAA was helping
feed the network, their Washington bureau was also getting organized to report the
reactions of the public about the assassination.
In Dallas, local television correspondents kept providing information to the
broadcast networks. Among them was Eddie Barker, news director of local television
station, KRLD, the CBS’s Dallas affiliate. Cronkite, much later in A Reporter's Life, said
Barker's “news sources among the police and hospital personnel were invaluable.” At the
time when the assassination happened, Barker was in Trade Mart preparing to report the
President’s scheduled speech. Barker was live at the Trade Mart off camera trying to sort
through reports from Dealey Plaza when the tragic news reached him.
Barker: “…The shots apparently came from the Texas School Depository, School
Book Depository, which is a building of about eight floors in height…and yes…”
Suddenly, Eddie Barker was interrupted by a man with terrible news, that man
later was identified as a doctor working at Parkland hospital where the President was sent
to after being shot.
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B. (1965).The Kennedy Assassination and the American Public: Social
Communication in Crisis. CA: Stanford University Press. P67.
Barker: “We have just been told by a member of the staff at the hospital the
President is dead. The doctor says the President is dead…”
Doctor: “He’d been shot in the chest.”
Barker: “Do you have any report on that?”
Doctor: “Not (yet)…”
Barker: “Thank you! Sir! This is the report of a doctor, who is on the staff
department of the Parkland hospital, who was here for the luncheon. He said the
President is dead. We do not have a confirmation on this. We only pass along words from
a man whom we would take as a good source at this time.”
While hearing Barker’s interviewing the doctor over the phone, on television
screen, television audiences saw images of the people’s reactions at the Trade Mart for
the luncheon. The people there were shocked and heartbroken. The camera especially
focused on a picture of a sad African American waiter who was wiping his eyes after
hearing such terrible news. Minutes later, audiences were informed the first official
announcement through television. The city mayor, Erick Johnson, confirmed, “It’s true
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
that our President in the motorcade had been shot.” Moments earlier, outside of
Parkland hospital, hundreds of Dallas residents and journalists were anxiously waiting for
the news about the President’s condition. Bob Huffaker of the KRLDTV described the
scene to the television viewers:
“…people are crying. Congress, senators, who love the President… a scene of
indescribable sadness and horror at the emergency entrance at the Parkland
hospital…people are wondering ‘is our President going to live?’”
Almost all the television audiences shared the same sadness and concern by
watching the pictures of other people’s reaction. The death of the President Kennedy was
officially announced by the doctors of Parkland hospital at approximately 1 p.m., Central
Standard Time. A priest administered the Last Rites. While CBS began relaying
unconfirmed reports of the President’s death about fifteen minutes before the priest made
the statement, both ABC and NBC took different steps to avoid the conclusion made by
the unofficial sources; they waited to report the death of the President until there was
official word of the death.
After getting confirmation on President’s death, people began to look for the news
on the questions of who committed this crime, how this could ever happen and how the
nation would handle this crisis. People were eager to know the context of this national
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video).
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B., P.82.
crisis as well as the crisis management of the nation, so were the television media. Not
long after shooting, the television networks began to closely follow the development of
police investigation in search for the suspect and the moves of the government officials,
especially the Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
The suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, arrested after a struggle at the Texas City
Theater at around 1:50p.m., was later accused of killing the President and a Dallas police
officer, J.D. Tippit. CBSTV’s affiliate, KRLDTV, got the first news footage of Lee
Oswald in custody at the old city hall. By early evening, the hallway of the police
headquarter had been jammed with news cameras and reporters. Police and attorney
showed some evidence including the rifle used by Lee Oswald to the reporters. Lee
Oswald was also brought in to face the interview of the reporters. Some reporters
emotionally yelled out at Lee Oswald “Why did you kill the president?” Later, Eddie
Barker described the situation of having so many reporters at the police headquarter
“anyone who views the tape will immediately be struck by the remarkable access the
reporters had to the suspect Lee Oswald.” Policeman Glenn King claimed the reason for
letting the press meet directly with Lee Oswald was to let the case be “as open as possible
to public”, in other words, “in the eye of the public.” However, it was also this
remarkable access the journalists had that claimed the life of Lee Oswald later on that
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video).
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
While some reporters were gathering around the police headquarter, others were
reporting the swearingin of a new President. Though television screens, people around
the nation watched Lyndon Johnson making his first television statement as the new
President of the United States at a Washington’s airport. His words were short and plain,
but they were powerful because they “bound the nation together.”
“I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help…”
The pictures of Lyndon Johnson’s swearingin and his first presidential statement
on television conveyed a strong message to the public and even the rest of the world, that
is, with the emergence of a new leadership, the situation of the nation was under control
and political environment was stable. In the evening of a tragic day, television viewers
saw President Lyndon Johnson as a symbol of leadership; Jackie Kennedy, in her
bloodstained dress, as an embodiment of bravery and calm. Therefore, their frequent
appearances on television seemed more important than any statement during this early
stage of the national crisis. ABC White House Correspondent William H. Lawrence, who
had been covering the White House for more than twenty year, held: “I think that was the
whole lesson of those four days. Although we mourn the death of a President, we don’t
witness the collapse of the Constitutional system or the settingin of chaos.” 62 Mike
Pengra, a producerdirector at the educational television station in Austin, Texas, said, for
Hickey, N. (1963). Television defines the catastrophe: for four days, the young medium mesmerized
Americans and bound the nation together, Columbia Journalism Review, NovDec 2001, V40, P55.
JFK: The Dallas Tapes (Video)
the first time, mass communications demonstrated vividly the process of democracy
under which we live.
To the television media, Friday, November 22, 1963, to some extent, also meant a
day of chaos. In this day, television media did not catch up the speed of radio in
conveying the breaking news. The first piece of news about shooting was actually
announced though radio, instead of on television. At that time, television technologies
were not advanced enough to convey the breaking news as quickly as the radio did in a
sudden crisis situation and even did not catch the moment of assassination on film. After
news anchor Walter Cronkite announced the first piece of the shocking news of President
Kennedy’s assassination without any video image, CBS, ironically, cut to a commercial
However, the television media were growing up during this chaos. In the
afternoon, less than a few hours after the assassination, all television networks in the
nation took an unprecedented measure by canceling all commercials and all
entertainment programs for the news, special coverage of the assassination and the
related development. ABC, CBS and NBC unanimously said that they would keep
suspending commercials and other entertainment programs until after the Kennedy’s
funeral. In talking about the financial impact caused by suspending all the commercials,
James C. Hagerty, ABC news vice president, said: “Money was not a factor. We did what
had to be done with no thought of expense.”
“Cancel commercials, all entertainment,” Broadcasting, November 25, 1963.
Saturday was still a day of mourning. Besides reporting that Lee Harvey Oswald
was formally charged with murder of the President and providing information on the
suspect’s backgrounds, all the three major networks ran their documentary tributes to the
late President. Old tapes and speeches of President Kennedy constantly appeared on
television screens. In the evening, CBS and other television networks also presented a
memorial concert or funeral music to mourn the death of President Kennedy.
Many scholars argued that it was Sunday’s event of Oswald’s assassination that
defined the impact on the evolution of television. After experiencing the chaotic Friday,
the television media had become more mature by being quicker and more sensitive to any
media event following the Kennedy’s assassination. The three major television networks
fully prepared for any situation, such as the unexpected Lee Oswald’s assassination and
President Kennedy’s funeral. It was this kind of full preparation that made a first
televised murder and an unprecedented international coverage of the President’s funeral
into reality in the mass media’s history.
Before the transfer of Lee Oswald, a NBC producer said: “One executive had a
premonition, he made sure we were adequately covered in Dallas. He felt something
serious might happen, and we had very carefully planned that halfhour to go to Dallas at
the time Oswald was brought out. We had cameras at both jails to cover it. All details
Stark, S. D. (1997). Glued to the set: the 60 television shows and events that made us who we are today.
NY: Free Press. P148154.
were planned… the New York anchorman would switch to Dallas. Dallas said ‘give it to
me’ just as the doors opened. It was not luck, this was wellplanned coverage.”
On Sunday, when Lee Oswald was transferring from the city prison to the county
jail, the press assembled in the basement of the city jail to cover the transfer. ABC was
unable to have live television camera at the city jail and so later only obtained film
footage of the homicide. ABC had three mobile units in the local area. One of them was
at the county jail, and the other two were being used to cover a Baptist church service in
Fort Worth so that on Sunday morning viewers would not feel tired of coverage that only
showed the viewing of the President’s casket in the Rotunda and preparations for
Oswald’s transfers. The local ABC station, independently and possibly for some of the
same reasons, elected to cover a Methodist church service in Dallas. Only after the
decisions and commitments had been made did it become quite evident that this would
leave ABC with only one mobile unite to cover Oswald’s transfer. As one ABC executive
put it, “Here is a real case of crossed wires. We should have checked with them
beforehand, but nobody thought of it.” Left with one mobile unit, the network people in
Dallas and the affiliate station people had to decide how it could be deployed in the best
way. It was felt that this would be a crucial decision. Finally, ABC placed its remaining
mobile unite at the county jail and two film cameras in the city jail. At approximately
11:20 a.m., when Oswald, flanked by policemen, emerged from the basement jail. A man,
later identified as Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, leaped from the crowd of reporters, and
shot Oswald. Oswald was rushed to Parkland hospital and pronounced dead at 1:07p.m..
JKF and American Public, P79.
Greenberg, B.S. & Parker, E.B., P80.
His death was announced by the chief of Dallas police department, Jesse Curry. While
ABC and CBS were quite frustrated at having recorded the event only on film, NBC
quietly appreciated its live coverage scoop. NBC, by cutting quickly and abruptly to
Dallas, was the only network to carry the murder “live.” As Doyle Vinson, Assistant
News Director of NBC’s affiliate WBAPTV, recalled it: “NBC correspondent Tom
Pettit was in the basement of City Hall with live cameras and he was on the network with
live narration by the time Oswald was shot.” When NBC reporter Tom Pettit kept
repeating “He’s been shot; he’s been shot; Lee Oswald has been shot” at the scene, the
Oswald’s murder became America’s first major seeitasithappens national event.”
Through Sunday, the television networks stations had also been preparing remote
units at several places along the route to photograph and describe the cortege from almost
every angle. NBC Correspondent Robert Goralski was positioned atop the Apex building
with a remote unit the network had rented from WBAL in Baltimore. They could see all
the way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Apex building. NBC used three other
production unites to cover the cortege on Sunday.
NBC remained on the air all night long with their cameras studying the catafalque
and the procession past it. NBC’s Robert Goralski, who had delivered commentary for
the procession and ceremonies much of the day, got home at 10 p.m. Sunday night and
turned on his own television set and began watching the news reports. He said “the
Garner, J. P57.
crowds filed past the Capitol Rotunda until about 2 a.m. the next morning. It wasn’t until
you got home that you had a chance to stop and think.”
On Monday, November 25, a national day of mourning, television media achieved
a new stage on its crisis management. All television networks not only dropped Lee
Oswald rather quickly but also reached an unprecedented level of cooperation by pooling
camera coverage. Three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC supplied more than 50
cameras for the joint coverage alone. Furthermore, each different network was assigned
different responsibilities according to their agreement. For example, CBS was in charge
of the control unit in the Capitol from where it sent edited pictures to other networks;
NBC had responsibility for transmitting the funeral services on the communications
satellite to other nations. Television viewing reached its highest level in history during
this period, attaining a 93 per cent setsinuse rating during the funeral procession from
the White House to Arlington national Cemetery. More than half of the New York homes
with television sets remained tuned for thirteen consecutive hours on Monday, the final
day in the fourday period of special programming. Dallas audiences watched three
funerals. Besides receiving the broadcast of the President’s funeral process in
Washington D.C. from the three networks, Dallas viewers also saw the service of slain
police officer J. D. Tippit Jr. and later the burial of the Lee Oswald. KRLDTV sent film
crews to record Oswald’s funeral that day but it did not show until later Monday night.
Originally from A.C. Nielson, Nielson Instantaneous Audiometer Service, from a graph by CBS in an
employee newsletter dated December 12, 1963. P4.
On November 26, following the national day of mourning, the nation resumed its
business. Even as to Jack Ruby, the media did not report any detailed and continuous
information on him until his trial in early 1964. President Lyndon Johnson praised the
television media for their performance during this national crisis:
“Television’s remarkable performance in communicating news of President John
F. Kennedy’s assassination and the events that followed was a source of sober
satisfaction to all Americans.
It acted swiftly. It acted surely. It acted intelligently and in impeccable taste.
On that unforgettable weekend in November 1963, television provided a personal
experience which all could share, a vast religious service which all could attend, and a
unifying bond which all could feel.
I take this opportunity to add my voice to those who already have recognized
television’s historic contribution.”
This concentrated fourday commercial free television coverage of Kennedy’s
assassination and its aftermath was an unprecedented challenge for the television media
at that time. Through covering the events and helping the nation manage the crisis in such
a short time, the television media had learned valuable lessons and gained plentiful
The President of ABC News, Elmer Lower, in looking back on this marathon
telecast, said: “There has never been a story like this. The presence for the first time of
electronic and film media at the climactic moments of a story, the great figures of our
country and the world who took part and, of course, that fact that it was all so
Lower, E. (1963). in ABC News press release dated November 26, 1963, P175.
Timeline of the 2001 September 11 Terrorist Attacks
(American Eastern Standard Time)
September 11, 2001
8:45 a.m.: A hijacked passenger jet, American Airlines Flight 11, which left Boston en
route to Los Angles with 92 people on board, crashed into the 110story north tower of
the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.
9:03 a.m.: A second hijacked airliner, United Airlines Flight 175 carrying 65 passengers
from Boston, crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center and exploded. Both
buildings were burning.
9:17 a.m.: The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all New York City area
9:21 a.m.: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered all bridges and
tunnels in the New York area closed.
9:30 a.m.: President Bush, speaking in Sarasota, Florida, said the country had suffered
“an apparent terrorist attack." Through the media, he also said he would order "a full
scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.
Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
9:40 a.m.: The FAA halted all flight operations at U.S. airports: the first time in U.S.
history that air traffic nationwide had been halted.
Approximately 9:43 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 77 with 64 people abroad crashed
into the Pentagon, severely damaging one side of the building.
9:45 a.m.: The U.S. government buildings in Washington including the Capitol and the
White House were evacuated.
9:57 a.m.: President Bush departed from Florida.
10:00 a.m.: The south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, plummeting into the
streets below. A massive cloud of dust and debris formed and slowly drifted away from
10:10 a.m.: A portion of the Pentagon collapsed.
10:10 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 93 with 38 passengers and seven crew members, also
hijacked, crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
10:13 a.m.: The United Nations building evacuated.
10:24 a.m.: The FAA reported that all inbound transatlantic aircraft flying into the United
States were to be diverted to Canada.
10:28 a.m.: The World Trade Center's north tower collapsed.
About 11:02 a.m.: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urged New Yorkers to stay at
home and ordered an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street.
11:16 a.m.: CNN reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were
preparing emergencyresponse teams in a precautionary move.
12:15 p.m.: The Immigration and Naturalization Service said U.S. borders with Canada
and Mexico were on the highest state of alert.
1:04 p.m.: President Bush, speaking from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said
that security measures were being taken. He asked for prayers for those killed or
wounded in the attacks and said: "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and
punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
1:27 p.m.: A state of emergency was declared in Washington, D.C..
About 1:44 p.m.: The Pentagon said five warships and two aircraft carriers would leave
the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, to protect the East Coast from further attack
and to reduce the number of ships in port. Meanwhile, President Bush left Barksdale Air
Force Base aboard Air Force One and flied to an Air Force base in Nebraska.
2:38 p.m.: At the first televised Press conference after the event, Giuliani said that the
efforts and focus from then on was to save as many lives as possible. Asked about the
number of people killed, Giuliani said, "I don't think we want to speculate about that
more than any of us can bear."
4:00 p.m.: CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor reported that U.S.
officials said there were "good indications" that Saudi militant Osama bin Laden,
suspected of coordinating the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998, was involved in
4:06 p.m.: California Gov. Gray Davis dispatched urban searchandrescue teams to New
4:25 p.m.: The American Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock
Exchange said they would remain closed Wednesday.
4:30 p.m.: The president left Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska aboard Air Force One to
return to Washington.
About 5:20 p.m.: The 47story Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex collapsed.
The evacuated building was damaged when the twin towers across the street collapsed
earlier in the day. Other nearby buildings in the area remained ablaze.
6:10 p.m.: Mayor Giuliani urged New Yorkers to stay home Wednesday if they can.
6:40 p.m.: U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, held a news conference in the
Pentagon, noting the building was operational. "It will be in business tomorrow," he said.
6:54 p.m.: President Bush arrived back at the White House aboard Marine One and was
scheduled to address the nation at 8:30 p.m.
7:20 p.m.: President Bush declared New York a major disaster in the wake of the attacks
on the World Trade Center.
7:45 p.m.: The New York Police Department said that at least 78 officers were missing.
The city also reported that as many as half of the first 400 firefighters on the scene were
8:30 p.m.: President Bush addressed the nation, saying, "Thousands of lives were
suddenly ended by evil" and asked for prayers for the families and friends of Tuesday's
victims. "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,"
he said. The president said the U.S. government would make no distinction between the
terrorists who committed the acts and those who harbored them. He added that
government offices in Washington were reopening for essential personnel Tuesday night
and for all workers Wednesday.
11:54 p.m.: CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno reported that a government
official told him there was an open microphone on one of the hijacked planes and that
sounds of discussion and "duress" were heard. Sesno also reported a source says law
enforcement had "credible" information and leads and was confident about the
September 12, 2001
From the early morning, people began to look for the missing persons. New York Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani warned the death toll would be thousands at the World Trade Center.
Firefighters continued to douse flames in New York and Washington. President Bush
began his first full day back in the White House, he declared the attacks were "acts of
war" and began to rally “an international coalition to combat terrorism”, he also visited
the damaged Pentagon in the afternoon.
September 13, 2001
President Bush spoke by telephone with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the morning and
then met with members of Congress from New York and Virginia about assistance to
families and victims of the attack. President Bush vowed that America would "lead the
world to victory" over terrorism in a struggle he termed the first war of the 21st century.
Hijacking trail led FBI to a Florida Flight school and the names of suspects and planners
said to be known. Secretary of State Colin Powell identified Osama Bin Laden as
the prime suspect and said other countries could no longer remain neutral in the fight
against terrorism. The United States would respond with a sustained military campaign,
not a single strike, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. Air travel cautiously
September 14, 2001
In the morning, President Bush arrived at Washington National Cathedral for prayer
serve, he said: “We are here in the middle hour of our grief.” In the afternoon, President
Bush arrived in downtown New York, visited the WTC site and addressed the rescue
workers. President Bush declared national emergency and gave military authority to call
50,000 reservists to active duty. Justice Department released names of the 19 hijackers.
Afghanistan's Taliban militia warned of "revenge" if United States attacked it for
harboring bin Laden. President Bush led four former presidents and nation in prayer at
National Cathedral and visits trade center site.
September 15, 2001
President Bush told the military to get ready for a long war against terrorism and vowed
to “do what it takes to win.” The State Department warned governments would
be isolated if they tolerated or assisted terrorist groups. Pakistan agreed to the full list of
U.S. demands for a possible attack on neighboring Afghanistan.
September 16, 2001
President Bush pledged "crusade" to "rid the world of evildoers," brushed off reported
Osama bin Laden denial. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney warned that those who harbor
terrorists would face "the full wrath of the United States." Pakistani official said senior
delegation sent to Afghanistan to deliver U.S. message: hand over Osama bin Laden or
risk massive assault.
September 17, 2001
The supreme leader of Afghanistan's Taliban said a grand council of Islamic clerics
would decide whether to hand over bin Laden. The Federal Reserve cut its key interest
rate to try to keep the economy from plunging into a recession. Investors sent stocks
reeling on Wall Street's first day of trading since the attacks. The list of people FBI
wanted detained in the United States and abroad grew to nearly 200. In the afternoon,
President Bush made his speech “Islam is Peace” at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.,
he said: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all
about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and
October 7, 2001
America began the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. President Bush addressed nation on
television: “On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda
terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of
Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the
Taliban regime.” Later, the American television networks broadcast a statement from
Osama Bin Laden pretaped in anticipation of the U.S. move and delivered to the Arabian
alJazeera television network.
October 10, 2001