I was six years old when Kennedy was shot, like all American’s my age and older I felt I knew the story. Basically I did, but here we get more than the basics. Lyndon Johnston opposed appointing the federal judge that swore him in as president. Oswald’s mother asked a reporter to take her to see her son in jail, was she friendless or grabbing the chance to rub elbows with a television personality?
In addition to the details that help fill in the story and show the names from the history books the be real people the writers show us that 1963 was a different world. Learning how they covered a world changing event without modern technology dragged me back to the 1960s. Film cameras instead of video, payphones not cell phones, it was a different world and this book brings it back.
Their reflections on the state of journalism was telling. All four mentioned “fair and balanced” while refusing to mention the network that uses it as a mantra. One noteD that if they were not fair and balanced in their time the editor would have fired them. But they did not stop there. The only bright spot they say in today’s media is Comedy Central’s news satire. By calling out the hypocrisy, misinformation, and cheerleading of “conventional” news The Daily Show and The Colbert Report do the country a service. The authors also wrote about an early interview program the did where the only opinions allowed were from the guest and phoned in from the public. Reporters gave information not their opinions. Facts were reported without regard to any red or blue tint the truth might have.
If you believe any of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination pass this book by, it exposes the mundane origins of several of them. If you enjoy “news” that simply and uncritically supports your opinions you won’t enjoy these journalists opinions. I really enjoyed reading Huffaker, Mercer, Phenix, and Wise’s recollections and opinions. I also learned why, when Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker went on trial their lawyer’s name was so familiar.