When the News Went Live by Bob Huffaker et al.

When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963 by Bob Huffaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The authors were all on-the-scene reporters from television news station KLRD in Dallas who covered the assassination of President Kennedy and its aftermath. Most of the reviewers consider it a book about the assassination and the subsequent killing of Oswald and trial of Jack Ruby. It does give a first-hand, reliable, and professional account of all of those events, but that’s not what the book is about. It’s about journalism.

The events of that day were what really brought the American public to the world of TV news as their primary news source. Before that, people mainly relied on their local newspaper. This book describes in fascinating, sometimes excruciating, detail what it was like to be a television newsman in those days. I was amazed at how versatile they had to be: able to work any of several different cameras, both film and still, then develop, edit and splice the film, write copy timed to match the film, then record it, conduct good interviews, act as sound engineer, hold a boom mike for another reporter, serve as on-air “anchor”, report the weather or sports if needed, develop sources with the police, fire, emergency rooms, city hall and elsewhere. They did all this in a milieu of chaos and bedlam during those days and week in Dallas, 1963.

Another reviewer wrote that the book went “off the rails” near the end by getting bogged down in the overlong details of Ruby’s trial and appeal. I totally agree, but he also accurately pointed out the best part of the book, which is the final commentary by the four authors on how news in general and television news in particular has changed, and not for the better.

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