Sunday, January 15, 2017


JFK+50:  Volume 7, No. 2190


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) JFK+50 begins the year 2017 with a review of "Jackie" starring Natalie Portman.  "Jackie" is a Fox Searchlight Pictures film directed by Pablo Larrain.

The screenplay was written by Noah Oppenheim.  Released on December 2, 2016, the movie has an "R" rating and lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The Journalist and Jackie continue their conversation in the kitchen of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis.

The Journalist says...

"You left your mark on this country...these last few days.  Losing a President is like losing a father and you were a mother to all of us.  And that's a very good story."

The Journalist goes on...

"The entire country watched the funeral from beginning to end.  Decades from now people will remember your dignity and...they'll remember you!"


Although this is a very short excerpt from the movie script, it is a most important one and one that is so very true.  Speaking from personal experience, we did not take our eyes off the television coverage from the afternoon of November 22 through November 25, 1963.  That short period of time, which seemed like an eternity back then, has been called "Four Dark Days."

Harold D. Wallace, Jr. reminds us that the assassinations of our first three presidents were covered by telegraph and newspapers.  Although there were some attempts, no presidential assassinations occurred during the "Age of Radio," and television in the 1930s, 40s & 50s had never covered a major breaking news story "non-stop."

Nevertheless, many Americans first learned of the shooting of JFK on the work or at school.  As I have described before, I was in high school when the principal came on the intercom and tuned into radio coverage so we could all hear. Then we went home and turned on the TV.

David Bianculli says...

"It was THE most important moment of television history...more than anything (before or since)."

In the days before cable television, the 3 major networks of the day, ABC-CBS-NBC, "stayed on the story for all four days."  

To understand the impact of the assassination and funeral coverage, we must remember that 93% of all American homes in November 1963 had television sets and, unlike today, most had access to a very small number of channels and all channels were broadcasting coverage of the event.

Also, we think of the 1960s in black and white.  Only 5% of American tv sets were capable of receiving color signals.  If you had a color set, it is unlikely you would have seen much of the assassination coverage in color because black & white cameras were primarily used.

But thanks to communications satellite, it was not just an American experience.  NBC-TV, in charge of the relay signal, broadcast television coverage to 23 countries around the world.  A 5 minute report was also relayed to the Soviet Union via Telstar.

The networks paid a high price for their trouble.  Costs ran more than $40 million with an additional $22 million in lost advertising revenue.  And TV ratings were off the charts:  NBC at 24, CBS at 16, and ABC at 10.

Thomas Doherty writes...

"The medium...served as a national lifeline."


"Assassination and Funeral of President John F. Kennedy," by Thomas Doherty,

"How Live TV Helped America Mourn the Loss of JFK," by David Bianculli, November 22, 2013, NPR,

"Jackie-Screenplay," by Script Pipeline,

"The technology that carried news of President Kennedy's assassination," by Harold D. Wallace, Jr., November 21, 2013, O Say Can You See:  Stories from the National Museum of American History,"

A Nation Mourns Panel
The Newseum
Washington, D.C.
Photo by John White (2016)