As someone pursuing a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, I found the three stories in the special section “Television Grows Up” in the May/June issue most interesting. However, it bothers me that every article on television coverage of what has become known as the Kennedy Weekend invariably focuses on CBS News.
While NBC was the last of the networks to break into local programming, its coverage was no less thorough than that of CBS. In less than two minutes NBC cleared its more than seventy affiliated stations and stayed on as a network from 1:45 P.M. Friday, November 22, to 1:16 A.M. the following Tuesday.
It was at 2:33 P.M. that NEC’s Bill Ryan confirmed via Associated Press news wire that President Kennedy had been assassinated, ratifying his own report of just minutes before that the President had indeed died. Moments later Robert MacNeil became the first reporter on the scene to report that the President’s wounds were fatal. This was done via telephone to Frank McGee, who was sitting alongside Ryan and Chet Huntley.
William Manchester, in his book The Death of a President , reports that the NBC audience for the weekend was greater than those of the other networks combined.
In the interest of fairness, I should point out that I am hardly the typical American Heritage reader, at least in this case. Bill Ryan was my father.