In Life and Especially in Death, JFK Changed TV

by | November 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM | TV News

In this July 3, 1963 file photo, U.S. President John F. Kennedy stands at the lectern behind a production slate board during a television taping at the White House. In life and especially in death, Kennedy changed television forever. (AP Photo)


By FRAZIER MOORE

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a measure of how long ago President John F. Kennedy died that, at the time, television was described as a young medium. With the shooting in Dallas, TV grew up.

Coverage that November weekend 50 years ago signaled, at last, that television could fulfill its grand promise. It could be “more than wires and lights in a box,” in the words of newsman Edward R. Murrow, and not just the “vast wasteland” that Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow had branded it just two years before.

Rising to an unprecedented challenge, television could perform an incalculable public service. It could hold the country together: Americans convened in a video vigil, gathering before an electronic hearth. Nonstop broadcasts by America’s three networks provided a sense of unity, a chance to grieve together, a startling closeness to distant events.

And television, exhaustively chronicling the murder, memorial and burial, gave viewers the final scenes of a political career ushered in almost in tandem with the video age.

In life and especially in death, John F. Kennedy changed television forever.

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