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When the News Went Live
Dallas 1963, 50th Anniversary Edition
Bob Huffaker; Bill Mercer; George Phenix and Wes Wise -
The minutes, hours, and days after President John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, provided no ready answers about what was going on, what would happen next, or what any of it meant. For millions of Americans transfixed by the incomparable breaking news, television—for the first time—emerged as a way to keep informed. But the journalists who brought the story to the television airwaves could only rely on their skill, their experience, and their stamina to make sense of what was, at the time, the biggest story of their lives.
President Kennedy’s assassination was the first time such big breaking news was covered spontaneously—this book tells the stories of four men who were at the epicenter of it all. Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, George Phenix, and Wes Wise were among those responsible for covering the assassination and its aftermath for Dallas’s KRLD. These reporters fed news and footage to Walter Cronkite and all of the other CBS affiliates around the country.
From the presidential motorcade to Parkland Hospital, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting to the trial and lonesome death of Jack Ruby, these men were there, on the inside. The view they were afforded of these events was unparalleled; the tales they have to tell, one-of-a-kind. This 50th anniversary edition includes new photos, insights, and reflections on the state of news (and faux news) today from the four men who were active participants in television news' pivotal moment.
Taylor Trade Publishing
Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-58979-895-3 • Hardback • October 2013 •
978-1-58979-896-0 • eBook • October 2013 •
History / United States / 20th Century
Biography & Autobiography / Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Language Arts & Disciplines / Journalism
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, investigative reporter, broadcast the JFK motorcade, the Parkland Hospital vigil, and the Oswald shooting on CBS. He was an army officer, police officer, English professor, and editor for
Studies in the Novel
; he wrote
John Fowles: Naturalist of Lyme Regis
and is honored in the Texas State University
Hall of Fame and the Dallas Press Club Living Legends of North Texas Journalism.
, voice of the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, and the Southwest Conference, was a professor at The University of North Texas. He wrote
Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sportscasting Insider
and a history of the Navy LCI, aboard which he served in the World War II Pacific. Mercer is honored in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, the Dallas Press Club Living Legends of North Texas Journalism
and baseball’s All-Pro Hall of Fame.
, filmed Oswald’s murder, the Parkland and Love Field scenes, and the Ruby murder trial. He founded and published
, the state’s top legislative newsletter. Phenix also published several weekly newspapers and served as aide to Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Congressman Jake Pickle. He writes the popular
Blog of Ages
, accosted by Jack Ruby the day after JFK’s assassination, before Ruby shot Oswald, was a witness in Ruby’s trial. A pioneer of play-by-play, Wise wrote for
Sports Illustrated, Time
. He served as Dallas mayor and president of the Texas Municipal League and is honored in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame and the Dallas Press Club Living Legends of North Texas Journalism. As Dallas mayor, he saved the Texas School Book Depository and other historic buildings from demolition, and he led the city in reclaiming its national reputation.
I. Messengers of Tragedy
Covering a President Becomes a Nightmare
Cables and Carpetbaggers
Epicenter of Grief
II. On the Scene
Moving with the Story
Gunman, Mob, and Mourners
III. Seeds of Hatred
The Media, Extremists, and Dallas
The Trials of Jacob Rubenstein
The Last of “Sparky” Ruby
IV. Looking Back
Television, Radio, Ethics, and Duty
Broadcast News, Fifty Years After
[A] fast-paced recounting of what they witnessed. . . . It concludes with two thought-provoking chapters about the business of news and its uncertain future.
As each of the authors gives his account of the segment of the Kennedy assassination he was most involved with—the race to get the injured president to the hospital, Oswald's flight and capture, Ruby's shooting of Oswald and Ruby's trial—he opens a window into the earlier era of broadcast history. The integrity and dedication of these four veteran journalists is impressive, as is their ability to make a 40-year-old event come alive again.
In those terrible days they shared a common bond to report the news as they lived and witnessed it. . . . Still committed to the same principle, they offer the reader . . . a fascinating text.
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The reporters . . . have truthfully written about what it was like to be there and witness history at the end of a microphone and live on camera.
[T]hese four local journalists were changing the face of news minute by minute.
George Mason University Broadside
It is always helpful to get a look back to see how we got to where we are today, and these gentlemen have done an excellent job of that in light of the Kennedy assassination.
Union University Review
Theirs is a compelling first person account that is being praised for its depth, authority, and readability.
Big Bend Sentinel
[A] riveting account not only of the assassination but of TV's transformation into America's most dominant news source.
Well-documented and credible. A story that needed to be told.
The account of reporting the events surrounding Kennedy's death goes beyond mere storytelling, reflecting on issues such as ethics and duty in the presentation of news. A fast-paced recounting of what they witnessed.
The Muskogee Phoenix and Times Democrat
This book has more legs than the Rockettes. The slim page-turner possesses a crisp, objective quality that, like a good movie, never stops moving.
; The Dallas Morning News
TV reporters Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, George Phenix and Wes Wise combine to recall the assassination of President Kennedy in
When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963
. These four describe what it was like when reporters did everything, including process and edit, in time for the next newscast.
; The Dallas Morning News
Their account of reporting events surrounding Kennedy's death goes beyond the mere retelling, reflecting on issues such as ethics and duty in the presentation of news. A fast-paced recounting of what they witnessed, accompanied by 43 evocative black-and-white photos. Thought provoking.
; Catawba Valley Community College Library
; The Dallas Morning News
Huffaker . . . as the main writer of the book, his accounts of that day, and the events following, are both dramatic and detailed.
; Longview News-Journal
. . . one of the more engaging books I've come across in some time. . . . Had these four chosen different professions during their younger days, we would all be the poorer for it. This is a first-class account of a tragic historical moment that still has an impact on our nation.
; Lewisville Leader
This work brings immediacy and intensity to events that shook the nation. You are there with the four, on the streets, at the hospital, along the flower-strewn Grassy Knoll the day after, in the jail as Oswald is paraded for the press and then for murder live on TV. Interwoven with this is the perspective of [fifty] years from men grown old, who still live with November 1963.
; San Antonio Express-News
Their account of reporting the events surrounding Kennedy's death goes beyond mere retelling, reflecting on issues such as ethics and duty in the presentation of news.
; Liberty Journal, RTNDA Communicator
'The President has been shot!' It has been more than forty years, and everyone old enough remembers what he was doing the day Kennedy died. And then Oswald. But few were close enough to see the whole terrible story unfold. This book brings us a version few have ever seen. Bill Mercer, Bob Huffaker, Wes Wise, and George Phenix lived this story minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Now they take us live and in living color back to those blood-dimmed days in Dallas. A stunning set of recollections.
James Ward Lee, TCU Press
When the News Went Live
is more than just a compelling read. It is an account of incredible from-the-streets reporting of history. . . . [R]eaders will appreciate the opportunity to read transcripts of live reports, such as Huffaker confirming the assassination by saying, ‘This is one of the quietest crowds that will ever assemble—the crowd with pity, sorrow, horror and shame in its heart.’ No less moving is Huffaker explaining to us . . . years later, ‘I hated having to speak when I felt like weeping.’
PRAISE FOR THE FIRST EDITION
The first accounts of how the Kennedy assassination happened came from the local radio and TV reporters of Dallas. For the first time, some of the best of those reporters tell the gritty tale of how they did it. The story they tell is riveting, insightful, and full of new detail about that awful weekend that changed America.
Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent, CBS News, author of This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV
Here, finally, is the view from the street about November 22, 1963. This reporters' account of the Kennedy assassination brings to full focus the personal anguish as well as the professional pressure endured that day by those who could not take the time to cry. This book will become part of the real and permanent history of a dark day for America.
Jim Lehrer, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer; author of Tension City
People often ask me what it was really like to be in Dallas on the day Kennedy was shot. . . .
When the News Went Live
provides an eloquent answer to that tough question, as four newsmen who were there, on the ground, tell how it ‘really was’ through their eyes and ears.
Dan Rather, CBS News
If you are going to read one book about the events of November 22, it might as well be this one. It is a great book.
Robert French, Auburn University
…[F]eatures invaluable detail of the Dallas Police headquarters during these extraordinary days…His discussion of the security procedures in place for the transfer of Oswald from police headquarters to jail is remarkable. What emerges is all the detail necessary to explain what otherwise looks impossible—that two lone wolf gunmen could have approached and killed two of the best protected men in the world within 48 hours (JFK and then Oswald).
Voice of Russia Radio, American Edition
This book will appeal not only to those interested in the historical events, but also those interested in the role of the media in covering political events and crises. The four authors provide wonderful insight into their thought processes and decision making during these events, teaching several ethical lessons along the way. Highly recommended.
Steven Nawara, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Lewis University
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