You hate to have something like a presidential assassination, or any assassination really have to be the test of the quality of your news coverage or not. But unfortunately greatness only tends to come in times of tragedy and when you’re tested. Times of war and being under attacked, when riots are going on, a death in the family, someone being out of work like your father, or another close relative and you don’t know what the future is going to look like and you fear for it. But unfortunately that is how humans tend to operate. When we’re not tested we tend to be somewhat lax and go back to our everyday normal activities.
And I think our network coverage from CBS News, perhaps especially as they were our biggest news operation back then and NBC News and even the much smaller ABC News, they were all really tested without precedent in how you cover a tragedy like this. No precedent in how you cover a presidential, or any other assassination in the electronic age of broadcast news and network news. All they had is the training and resources that they had to work with when. Which was make sure their people are on the story and getting the information needed and make sure the network executives are giving you the network air time to cover the story.
The JFK assassination is not the only reason why Walter Cronkite is America’s newsman and why we haven’t seen a network news anchor as good since. But it is certainly a reason, because you really got to see how professional and great he was and had to be and couldn’t afford any mistakes. You also got to see his human side especially when he announced the death of President John F. Kennedy. And you got to see how hard of an announcement it was for him to make. Cronkite, personally knew Jack Kennedy and personally liked him. So it must have been announcing the death of one of your friends on live on national TV. With millions of people watching you and he did it as well as it could’ve been done.