When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963

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Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Sacramento Bee
[A] riveting account not only of the assassination but of TV's transformation into America's most dominant news source.
Longview News-Journal
Well-documented and credible. A story that needed to be told.
The Muskogee Phoenix and Times Democrat
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.
Big Bend Sentinel
Theirs is a compelling first person account that is being praised for its depth, authority, and readability.
Today Midlothian
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.
Jim Lehrer
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.
Bob Schieffer
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.
James Ward Lee
'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.
The Dallas Morning News - Judy Alter
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.
Catawba Valley Community College Library - Ari Sigal
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.
Dallas Morning News - Si Dunn
Noteworthy.
Longview News-Journal - Rachel Stallard
Huffaker . . . as the main writer of the book, his accounts of that day, and the events following, are both dramatic and detailed.
Lewisville Leader - Ken Judkins
. . . 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.
San Antonio Express-News - Sterlin Holmsely
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.
Liberty Journal, RTNDA Communicator - Liberty Journal
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.
Dan Rather
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.
Dallas Morning News - Kent Biffle
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.
William Kerns
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.’
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
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.
George Mason University Broadside
[T]hese four local journalists were changing the face of news minute by minute.
Union University Review
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.
Robert French
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.
American Edition Voice of Russia Radio
…[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).
Steven Nawara
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589798953
  • Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Edition description: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 780,609
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Huffaker, 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 Texas Monthly and Studies in the Novel; he wrote John Fowles: Naturalist of Lyme Regis and is honored in the Texas State University Star Hall of Fame and the Dallas Press Club Living Legends of North Texas Journalism.

Bill Mercer, 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.

George Phenix, filmed Oswald’s murder, the Parkland and Love Field scenes, and the Ruby murder trial. He founded and published Texas Weekly, 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 at www.blogofages.net.

Wes Wise, 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, and Life. 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.

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Table of Contents

I. Messengers of Tragedy
1.Covering a President Becomes a Nightmare
2.Murderous Flight
3.Cables and Carpetbaggers
4.Epicenter of Grief
II. On the Scene
5.Moving with the Story
6.Gunman, Mob, and Mourners
III. Seeds of Hatred
7.The Media, Extremists, and Dallas
8.The Trials of Jacob Rubenstein
9.The Last of “Sparky” Ruby
IV. Looking Back
10.Television, Radio, Ethics, and Duty
11.Broadcast News, Fifty Years After
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2005

    A Real Page-Turner

    This book is a must-read for journalism students, assassination and history buffs, and all of us who are old enough to remember where we were when we learned that Kennedy had been shot. It's a fascinating study of the events surrounding that tragedy from the viewpoint of local TV reporters, with revealing background info on the major players, the journalistic ethics of the day (long since changed, not for the better), disparate views of the city from inside and afar, and an informed look at the origins of some popular conspiracy theories. Bill Mercer's recollection of his interviews on the grassy knoll is particularly touching. For those of us of a certain age, there is an evocation of time and place that stays with the reader long after the book has been finished.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2005

    A MUST READ IN EVERY JOURNALISM CLASSROOM

    I stayed up all night reading when my copy of When The News Went Live, Dallas 1963 arrived. This book is a classic and should be included in the curriculum of every journalism and political science classroom in America. Huffaker, Mercer, Phenix and Wise have written the Texas story of the Kennedy assassination, the inside scoop on Oswald¿s murder and the history of the evolution of modern journalism. These four men were Dallas television reporters, on the scene and on their own, in the middle of the news story of the century. It is a salute to their training and their integrity as newsmen that their coverage under duress stands today as a compelling rendering of those fateful moments. I am glad they were the early ones on the scene, for they were the ones who broke the news to me in my elementary classroom. The story gives their perspectives more fully; all these years later, this book helps me understand the events and how they affected Texas and the nation. Bob, Bill, George and Wes were there in Dallas with their Southern sensibilities. They weren¿t easily pushed around or manipulated that dark day and still aren¿t. They were taught to tell the truth as objectively as possible, and they reverted to that training and their good common sense when placed in positions lesser men might have blown or exploited. These four men cared about truth and justice and fairness and still do. I hope all young journalists will read this and learn about balanced reporting.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2013

    Bob Huffaker, along with Bill Mercer, George Phenix and Wes Wise

    Bob Huffaker, along with Bill Mercer, George Phenix and Wes Wise were reporters for KRLD in Dallas in November 1963 when JFK was assassinated in their city.  The authors provide their recollections of the day and the aftermath of the assassination in a way that is forthright and telling. It is a first person account that needed to be told before their particular voices are lost to history. They take care to let us know what it meant to be a reporter in 1963 and you were more than just a talking head; you had to write and edit your own copy and any audio or video they shot. These men were reporters who literally had their hands in the entire news process from front to back.

    They tell the story of the JFK assassination almost literally through their microphones and the lens of their cameras; who was covering what and where.  This is not a discussion of how the assassination was carried out; this is a tale of how the event was covered, whether from Love Field, Dealy Plaza, the Trade Plaza, Dallas PD or Parkland Hospital. Along the way, we see how the national and international media swooped in helped make that weekend the media circus that it was. (This reviewer shudders at the thought of such an unfortunate event of this magnitude in this era of 24/7 news cycles and the overwhelming rush to be "first" as opposed to "correct".) 

    Along the way, we also get a look behind the scenes at how these men utilized their contacts within the Dallas PD to get background information on their stories and how they did it in a manner that respected their sources.  By contrast, we also have evidence that the 21st century news media does not have a monopoly on crafting a narrative with which to frame a story.  Dan Rather - the purveyor of the forged George H. Bush Air National Guard documents - went and ran with a story about the children of one Dallas elementary school cheering when JFK's assassination was announced. This was made to appear that Dallas was "a city of hate". It turns out, the cheers were because they were being let out of school early; a reason for which any school-age child would cheer. Similarly, noted CBS commentator Eric Sevareid is faulted for relying on his research staff who spoke with one of the authors several times about Oswald's murder, yet none of that information made it to Sevareid's commentary that day.

    A major weakness of the book is the authors' seeming bias against conservatives. The authors frequently use terms like "arch-conservative", "rabid right winger" and the like; yet no liberal is given similar terms. In their end commentaries on the media today, they make many sideways remarks about Fox News, either expressly or implied using their slogan "Fair and Balanced". In my opinion, this takes away from their objectivity and as such causes me to de-rate the book by one whole star.

    BOTTOM LINE: This is a wonderful book for those interested in reading about the JFK assassination from a different point of view; namely, those who covered it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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