One of the most amazing facts about the Kennedy assassination is that, according to a national opinion poll carried out in the immediate aftermath of that eventful weekend, 68 per cent of Americans had heard about the shooting by the time the president was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.; and by six o'clock that evening 99.8 per cent of the nation had heard the news. In the period from the shooting to the funeral Americans bought record numbers of newspapers and were glued to their television sets as events unfolded. These were, according to a member of the editorial board of the New York Times at the time, ‘four of the most tumultuous days in the life of the nation and the history of American journalism’. This chapter begins by summarizing what the newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters actually covered, before going on to look at the wider question of how these early accounts shaped future ones, and whether the event was a success or a failure for the media.
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