The “Four Days” surrounding the Kennedy assassination marked the first time that the first draft of history was written as it happened, via live television, with everyone looking on.
In the five decades since, there have been endless attempts to arrive at that final rewrite, one that would wrap the events into some understandable narrative. To answer the question: Why?
The publications started immediately from the wire services (AP and UPI) as well as from such established names as Life magazine – all of which generated the 1963-64 equivalent of “instant books.”
Since then, products of every sort (books, articles, films) have used the opportunity provided by the passage of time to review the events with further reflection, emphasizing different aspects.
Two elements have been particularly striking when reexamined through contemporary eyes. First, tempering the highly praised blanket news coverage that took place across the television spectrum in 1963. Second, considering which murder during those four days held greater implications for the future of the news media.
Back in 2003, I considered those questions in an op-ed piece (which follows) that appeared originally in the Christian Science Monitor under the title “The birth – and maturity – of saturation news coverage.”