November 22, 1963
Most of us who were around when President Kennedy got shot can easily answer the question: “Where were you?” The events of that time are indelibly etched in our minds.
I was in high school then (yes, I’m giving away my age) and I still remember our principal’s announcement over the PA system: “President Kennedy has been shot. There are no other details. Please leave the building in an orderly fashion and get home safely.” The news after that was very sketchy. Remember, there was no cable TV, no Internet, no E-mail, no cell phones, etc. The one eye witness video of the Kennedy assassination was the famous Zapruder film, a short clip by a private citizen.
When I got home, we were riveted to our black-and-white TV as events slowly unfolded. I remember watching live as Jack Ruby shot and killed suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. I remember the funeral procession with Jackie Kennedy and her two young children. I remember how frightened we were because there was some discussion that this was a hostile act during the Cold War.
November 22, 2013
Now, we’re fifty years later — and we know that coverage of the Kennedy assassination would be MUCH different. Consider this hypothetical scenario. November 22, 2013, as President Kennedy’s motorcade zips through Dallas, shots ring out:
- People lining the streets film and record the motorcade with the cameras on their smartphones.
- Video clips are taken by private citizens from every possible angle.
- These video clips are Tweeted, texted, and E-mailed.
- The first YouTube video appears less than 60 seconds after the shots are fired.
- Within one hour, the video clips go viral and are seen by more than one billion people around the world.
- Some people watching the motorcade discover that they have taken photos of Lee Harvey Oswald entering the building where shots were fired; others have taken video clips of the window where the shots were fired — in real time.
- Equipped with many video clips, online and through cable and broadcast TV, the talking heads have a lot of virtually real-time footage to show viewers.
- Conspiracy theorists are posting online within minutes.
- Wikipedia updates President Kennedy’s page every time new information is released.
- The new media relentlessly pursue the story and cast doubt on the single shooter theory.
- The NFL cancels all Sunday football games out of respect for President Kennedy (something it did not do in 1963).
- People Tweet, text, etc. to their friends and family to try to make sense of these events — and to comfort one another.
November 22, 2013 photo by Michael Stravato for the New York Times