The anniversary of the November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy is soon upon us. Anyone who was alive and old enough at the time remembers that day well. It was very much a time of shock, disbelief and sorrow. In a brief few seconds the United States was placed on a new path in history.
I began thinking about it and wondered how the “news” agencies and media of today would have reacted to the events as they unfolded. The following time lines are a mix of history and fiction. They depict what the assassination of President Kennedy may have been like had it happened today, in the current world of instant communications. It is meant as my commentary on the state of today's media. Any quotes may be verbatum, paraphrased, changed or just complete fiction.
I would say I hope you enjoy this but I am not sure it is something that can be enjoyed.
DALLAS, TEXAS November 22, 2009 Central Standard Time
12:28 PM – All major television networks are airing commercials. CNN has been following a breaking news story about a boy allegedly adrift on the ocean in a large beach ball for the past hour and a half, though they are not sure it is really a beach ball at all. MSNBC's Dr. Nancy discusses the heartbreak of psoriasis. On Fox News's Happening Now Jane Skinner interviews the father of the beach ball boy.
12.:29 PM – President Kennedy's limousine enters Dealy Plaza after a 90-degree right turn from Main Street onto Houston Street. Over two dozen known and unknown amateur and professional still and video photographers capture the motorcade. There is no live network or cable coverage of the motorcade. The motorcade makes a left hand turn onto Elm Street.
12:30 PM – As the motorcade heads down Elm Street towards an overpass, shots are heard. People waiting to see the President drive by in the open limousine actually view the moment of assassination. Many of the people watching are also taking photos with their cell phones and capture the assassination. Many video cameras document these tragic moments. Due to the volume of video images, the one by an Abraham Zapruder never becomes famous.
12:31 PM – An “OMG Kennedy shot” text message is sent by many individuals in Dealy Plaza to family members and friends around the country and the world. In some cases, photos are also sent. Journalist are also present and call it into their newsrooms.
12:32 PM – The first Internet posting appears on Daily KOS by a family member receiving a text message from Dealy Plaza announcing that President Kennedy has been shot.
12:32:15 PM – The first response to the Daily KOS diary puts forth the first conspiracy theory that extreme right wing Republicans are to blame and that they incited this to happen with the “Kennedy is a Traitor” leaflets handed out in Dallas over the past few days.
12:32:28 PM – Numerous Twitter postings are starting to show up with all kinds of conjecture about what is unfolding in Dallas.
12:34 PM – First word of the shooting is received by an overseas government.
12:36 PM – ABC is the first major network to break the story by announcing, “Here is a special bulletin from Dallas, Texas. Three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade today in downtown Dallas, Texas. To repeat: In Dallas Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade today, the President now making a two-day speaking tour of Texas. We're going to stand by for more details on the incident in Dallas, stay tuned to your ABC station for further details. Now we return you to your regular program.”
12:37 PM – MSNBC interrupts Dr. Nancy with an announcement that President Kennedy was shot at in Dallas, Texas. They will stay on the air until they get further developing word on the story.
12:38 PM – CNN interrupts its coverage of the beach ball boy to announce that it has no hard facts but they understands that President Kennedy may have been shot at in Dallas, Florida. They announce they will go to back to the Situation Room for more on the beach ball boy and the shooting after a commercial break.
12:38 PM – President Kennedy arrives at Parkland Hospital.
12:40 PM – CBS makes the following announcement, “Here is a bulletin from CBS News. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting. More details just arrived. These details about the same as previously: President Kennedy shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy, she called "Oh, no!"; the motorcade sped on. United Press says that the wounds for President Kennedy perhaps could be fatal. Repeating, a bulletin from CBS News, President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas. Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.”
12:41 PM – CNN's Wolf Blitzer appears standing in the Situation Room alone. He corrects the earlier report that the shooting was not in Dallas, Florida, as it was actually in Dallas, Texas. He asks if there is any update on the President's condition. He is told there is none. He also asks if it is known whether the shooting has stopped in Dallas. Not receiving a reply he announces that they are going to try to get their CNN affiliate in Dallas connected. They will return after a commercial break.
12:45 PM - FOX News interrupts its interview of the beach ball boy's father and announces that it appears that someone or some group has fired multiple shots at the President in Dallas, Texas at around 12:30 PM CST. They start speculating whether is was a good idea for the President to go to Texas in the first place since they don't like him down there. Steve Doocy states, “Well..maybe it's his own fault for going where he isn't wanted.”
12:46 PM Huffington Post puts up headline KENNEDY SHOT in 200 pitch font. Under the headline is a picture of a TOW missile launcher and a photo of the old Presidential limousine that has not been in service for 15 years. Their story is two sentences long, repeating the AP wire about possible shots. The first 78 posts are censored as they contain the words “holy” and/or “shit”.
12:47 PM – All major networks and cable news are now receiving video and audio feeds from their local affiliates.
12:48 PM – The first broadcast of video shot in Dealy Plaza of the motorcade and the shooting is aired. The networks and cable news channels all start to play the various angles, slow motion, stop frame, closeups, etc. in apparent endless loops while interspersed with interviews of individuals claiming to be present. Commentators make statements of how they did not see how anyone could survive being shot like that. The loops of the videos will be shown over the next 48 hours almost without interruption.
12:49 PM Rush Limbaugh starts laughing on the air and says, “Hey, how about that, someone actually did something constructive about that guy Kennedy!”
12:48 PM – The major amount of Internet traffic is beginning to take its toll. Speed is now one quarter that of normal. Cell phone networks are failing due to the volume of calls and messages.
01:00 PM – President Kennedy is pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.
01:00 until 01:30 PM – ABC, CBS and NBC continue covering theunfolding events. MSNBC's Dr. Nancy is consulted on gunshot wounds. FOX affiliates in Dallas interviews the local NRA officials asking whether additional gun control measures could result from this event. CNN airs aerial video of Parkland Hospital while interviewing four gun experts for their assumptions on the likelihood of surviving what appears to be a head wound caused by a rifle bullet.
01:33 PM – At Parkland Hospital White House Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff, after awaiting President Johnson's departure to Love Field, makes the public announcement that, “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1:00 CST today, here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound to the brain. I have no other details regarding the assassination of the president.” The announcement is carried live on all major networks and cable news.
01:34 PM – A local FOX News reporter spots Mrs. Kennedy seated in the hallway at Parkland Hospital and rushes up to her with the camera crew and puts the microphone into her face and asks her how she feels about the President being killed.
01:35 PM – Sitting in at the ABC News desk Bill Weir shakes his head and states, “That shows that even the Kennedys aren't bulletproof.”
01:47 PM – The US Coast Guard recovers the beach ball from heavy seas only to find the boy was not inside.