MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One television analyst says the template for today’s coverage of breaking news on television was developed in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.

Photo courtesy CBS News

Many Americans heard about the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 from Walter Cronkite on CBS.

“Television, kind of, invents, gets good at and perfects breaking, wall-to-wall coverage of a single story and they do that all in the course of four days, from Friday to the funeral on Monday,” said Bob Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

Thompson was a guest on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline” to help mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.

He said the television networks had to reinvent news coverage operations on the fly on that November day in 1963.

“That idea of breaking news, going from location to location live, and completely throwing the rest of your schedule to the wind,” Thompson said was developed at that time.  “After about the first two break-ins of regular programming, then they finally broke in and they stayed broken in.”

Kennedy was shot at Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.  When the White House confirmed his death at 1:30 p.m. that day, Nielsen estimated more than 45 percent of U.S. homes with televisions, at the time, were watching.

According to Nielson, one of the highest television ratings in U.S. history was recorded the following Monday when Kennedy’s coffin arrived at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.  Officials said more than 80 percent of U.S. homes with televisions were tuned into the news coverage.

It would be Sept. 11, 2001 before networks again dedicated as much time to commercial-free news broadcasts.

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