“Three shots were fired,” Merriman Smith reported from the press car in Dallas, Texas.
“Three shots were fired,” are the first four words of Marc Ryan’s new book title.
Four bold words; “Three shots were fired,” marked former President John F. Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963.
Friday, November 22, of this year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination.
She was a sophomore in high school, about 15 or 16 years old. “I was walking through the halls of my high school and people started yelling that the President had been assassinated,” Chair of the Journalism Department at Keene State College, Rose Kundanis, said.
He was 12 years old. “All of us gasped and were horrified,” professor of philosophy at KSC, Sander Lee, said about hearing of the former President’s assassination.
Marc Ryan, former professor of journalism at KSC, told the story from the journalist’s perspective of the event.
“Tell the story in a way it hasn’t been told before,” Ryan said.
Kundanis said she remembers a school concert was supposed to take place the day of JFK’s assassination. Instead of a full concert, only one song was sang. “The whole concert was canceled and the song that we sang was, “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” Kundanis said, as she became emotional remembering the day’s events.
She said she recalls watching the television coverage on the Sunday after the assassination and seeing Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald.
“The whole thing became very personalized not only because of our participation with the concert, but also watching a follow-up [to the assassination of JFK] on TV,” Kundanis said.
According to Kundanis, the coverage she watched of that day included photographs of the family. Kundanish said the televised coverage of the McCarthy trials and the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr., among other tragedies, made a shift in her generation.
“So once we did get to the late sixties, that’s when people were saying, ‘The whole world is watching,’” Kundanis said, “because that’s what our generation grew up with—is the idea that the whole world is watching.”
Lee lived in Dallas, Texas at the time of the assassination. He said he recalled the school gathering in a room with a large television set to watch the coverage in black and white. The coverage his school watched was from CBS and he saw Walter Cronkite’s emotional announcement of the President’s death.
Lee said people watched the coverage all weekend through the time of the former President’s funeral. “It was not common back in those days for people to watch television continuously,” Lee said.
According to Lee, it was the first time the public was able to establish a bond with the reporters.
The broadcasts were everywhere and even if no new news was coming in, the reporters were still reporting the story. “It was the first time, I think, that television became the source for news,” Lee said, “that newspapers and radio stopped being a source for the news.”
Ryan wrote an electronic book this year on the coverage of the JFK assassination. The book is called, “Three Shots Were Fired: JFK’s Assassination and T.V.’s First Global Story.”
“I’m a big fan of different,” Ryan said, which is a reason he wrote the book. “There’s a lot of books on how he died and who killed him, but you have to look at it from all angles,” Ryan said.
His book is all about the television coverage of the JFK assassination. Ryan feels a personal connection because his father, Bill Ryan who worked for NBC, was the first person on the television to broadcast JFK’s assassination. He said he remembers his father working for ten hours on the story and by the end of it, he wanted to talk to no one.
According to Ryan, there was a press car in the procession in Dallas when former president Kennedy rode through. In the press car, were four people from the media, including Merriman Smith. When the shots rang out, there was a physical fight in that car to get to the phone.
Ryan said it was not common for a phone to be in a car in that time period. Smith was the first one to get to the phone and the first words of the assassination were, “Three shots were fired.” According to Ryan, that was where he found the name for his book.
“Controlled panic,” were the two words Bill Ryan chose to describe the setting of the newsroom that day.
Marc Ryan said all information came over the telephone and wire machines. The reporters were scrambling to get as much information as they could out to the public about this event. “It was the first time people turned off the radio and turned on the TV,” Ryan said.
Ryan connected the assassination of JFK to more recent events. “With your generation, it’s 9/11 or the Boston bombing,” Ryan said.
Ryan posts on a website called wordpress.com, which has information on the JFK assassination as well as his new book. He has also been featured on the website “It’s All About TV”
“This is really TV’s first global story,” Ryan said. He continued, “I didn’t write the book to make money, I did it to tell the story.”
Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org