I saw part of a program about the Kennedy assassination the other day that got me curious about how the event was covered on TV as it happened. My mom, who was a teenager at the time, has told me she was home watching a soap and having lunch when she heard the news bulletin on TV saying Kennedy had been shot. Before it was confirmed that he was killed, my mom ran next door to the school where her mom was a history teacher to tell her what was happening.
YouTube has “As It Happened” clips of news events, in some cases hours-long recordings of TV broadcasts of major events, commercials and all. I watched some clips of the coverage of the Kennedy assassination from a couple of different networks. One (the ABC clip above) broke into a program with a bulletin saying the president had been shot in Dallas, announced that they’d keep viewers updated and then resumed broadcast of the program until there was more news to share.
While watching it, I was struck by a few things, including how obviously unprepared a major network was to broadcast breaking news 50 years ago. Also how incredibly sexist and stupid the commercials were.
My mom remembers being glued to the TV after the Kennedy assassination — she saw coverage of the murder of Oswald and watched Kennedy’s funeral, etc. In her recollection, the narrative about the events changed subtly over those days, and even now, she is convinced the government and media colluded to cover something up, though she’s not sure exactly what.
Of course, today, there is 24/7 coverage of every high-profile tragedy, whether there’s anything new to report or not. The “As It Happened” clips on YouTube include hours of coverage from 9/11/2001, which I suspect many of us watched in real time. If you look up coverage from the Kennedy assassination or 9/11 on YouTube, you’ll also see tons of conspiracy theory-focused clips.
The TROOF is out there, whether between commercials featuring housewives battling yellow waxy build-up on their linoleum (was that really a THING? Sweet Jesus! We feel we’re doing well if the sticky crap on the floor doesn’t pull our shoes off!) or nonstop hand-wringing from yammering-heads.
Media ref-working from the wingnut-plutocrat alliance shapes coverage of hard news events as well as politics, but aside from that, I’m wondering how the profound changes in the way the media packages and delivers major breaking news events alters the way we receive it and internalize it. Any thoughts on that?