If you’re following the news at all this week, you’ve certainly seen plenty of reports — and will see many more in the next few days — commemorating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
The Salt Lake Tribune published its own extensive package at sltrib.com and in the Nov. 17 print edition. We’ll publish more stories Friday and Saturday as the pivotal event in U.S. history is remembered in ceremonies across the nation.
On display in our conference room here at The Tribune is a framed copy of the Nov. 23, 1963, newspaper in which the assassination was reported under the massive headline "Assassin Slays Kennedy — Johnson Takes U.S. Reins."
We’ve spent time looking back at those stories in the past few weeks, and found it interesting that The Tribune’s coverage of Kennedy’s assassination became the topic of a research paper by American University journalism student Win Brooks.
Brooks, of Mount Airy, Md., said he examined microfilm of The Tribune at the Library of Congress for his paper, which he shared with us.
"I believe such a piece would be interesting to your readers, given the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination," Brooks wrote in an email.
We agree. It is interesting.
Thanks for sharing it, Win.
The Tribune’s Coverage of the Kennedy Assassination — A Retrospective
By Win Brooks
The assassination 50 years ago this week of President John F. Kennedy plunged the nation into grief and mourning. In its coverage, the The Salt Lake recognized the decisive and momentous importance of the president’s death. It had to have been clear to readers of The Tribune November 23, 1963 that they were reading history as it was unfolding.
The front page of The Tribune on November 23, 1963 the assassination of President Kennedy in huge headlines, three inches high. "Assassin slays Kennedy- Johnson Takes Reins." The article opened with a lead that read: "Life couldn’t be the same again. A good man, a great man, in the eyes of millions, was gone. He meant something to everyone, whatever they thought of him. And he was gone. And things couldn’t be quite like they were."
In its first article about Kennedy’s death, The Tribune captured the profound shock the assassination caused. The article speculated about long-term effects of the assassination, saying: "There will be another president, of course but it won’t be Mr. Kennedy, nor his ideas and manners, nor their reflection in the world’s destiny." article suggested the assassination’s wide reaching effects, a moment in American history that would be remembered as marking a dramatic shift.
The article noted other, more mundane effects, too, including that "courts were adjourned, amusement places shut down, games were canceled, dinners called off."
A sidebar story on the front page that day described how Utah citizens responded to the news. "Utah Reaction Reflection Reflects Nationwide Guilt," the headline read. The article quoted the governor, George D. Clyde, as saying: "Our hearts are filled with sorrow…" David O. McKay, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was quoted as saying: "It is terrible to think that such a tragedy to occur, our prayers go in sincere and earnest appeal to the almighty that he will comfort the nation in this hour of tragic grief."
As if to emphasize the historic nature of the Kennedy assassination, The Tribune in "Tribune Tally," a small article at the bottom of the front page on November 23, 1963 "This is a tragically historic edition of The Salt Lake Tribune: a stark black and white report of history as it happens, of America in one of her darkest hours." The article told readers: "Here are the pictures and reports of an event which has shaken the world — and might alter its course. As Americans, as citizens — as mere humans caught up in this moment in history — you will want to read it all."