• Walter Lippmann writes three columns based on more than four hours of interviews with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
• John F. Kennedy becomes the first president to regularly conduct live broadcast press conferences.
• The New Yorker publishes “Silent Spring,” a groundbreaking three-part investigation of pesticides by Rachel Carson.
• Communication satellite Telstar 1 goes into orbit and relays first television images.
What Went Uncovered
When New York City’s newspapers resumed publishing after a nearly four-month strike, CJR’s Spring ’63 issue explored the wide effects of the news gap: A key city hall official only learned of two Black Muslims’ arrest on disorderly conduct charges when 400 brethren showed up to protest outside his office. Noting slumlords whose crimes escaped coverage, the city’s building commissioner remarked, “There’s a distinct difference between a $500 fine and a $500 fine plus a story in the Times.” And the citizens’ group against razing Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux-Arts landmark, complained not only of trouble rousing public sympathy, but that without the benefit of advance coverage, they’d literally missed a chance to speak against the demolition before a final vote.
The Los Angeles Times has moved into the Age of the Computer. An RCA 301 now accepts paper tape punched by electric typewriters and in 17 seconds produces enough corrected and spaced tape to give automatic typesetting machines enough to fill a newspaper column. Copy editors’ changes, too, are fed into the computer and incorporated. The tremendous speed of the operation is obviously a breakthrough. Who cannot help wondering, though, about the feelings of reporters plugged in on the system? They must feel a little as cows did when the milking machine was introduced.
—from “Plugged In,”
• ABC airs Crisis, a vérité look at JFK’s showdown with George Wallace over integrating the University of Alabama.
• Almost 20,000 New York City newsworkers end a 114-day strike.
“Note to too many Southern copydesks: Why not drop the loaded word “mixing” as a synonym for integration?”
—from Darts & Laurels,
A voice boomed from the radio: “The President of the United States is dead.” I believed it instantly. It sounded true. I knew it was true. I stood still a moment, then began running. Hugh Sidey of Time, a close friend of the president, was walking slowly ahead of me. “Hugh,” I said, “the president’s dead.” Sidey stopped, looked at me, looked at the ground. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t think about it. I couldn’t do anything but run on to the press room. Then I told the others.
—from New York Times correspondent Tom Wicker’s recollections of Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963,
• David Halberstam (New York Times) and Malcolm Browne (AP) win Pulitzers for coverage of the overthrow of South Vietnam’s Diem regime.
• Supreme Court’s Times v. Sullivan ruling gives legal protection from libel when reporting on public figures.
• Ralph Nader publishes muckraking auto-safety book Unsafe at Any Speed.
• The holdout Boston Herald-Traveller stops running display ads on page one.
• Esquire publishes Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” a New Journalism classic.
• Freedom of Information Act signed, somewhat grudgingly, by President Lyndon Johnson.
Journalists have always struggled to count political crowds; their estimates are inevitably greeted by partisan calls for a higher or lower figure. In CJR’s Spring ’67 issue, Herbert A. Jacobs field tested a method based on crowd density and square footage. He had two advantages: as a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s journalism school, he described the campus as “activist, speech-prone, and rally-prone,” and Sproul Plaza, the locus of the Free Speech Movement, was helpfully divided into regularly-sized squares.
• New York Times prints Harrison Salisbury’s reporting from North Vietnam, drawing charges of treason.
• The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is established
• CBS anchor Walter Cronkite breaks with conventional ideas of objectivity and tells US its troops are “mired in a stalemate” in Vietnam.
• 60 Minutes debuts on CBS, pioneering the television newsmagazine format.
Missing a Massacre
Seymour Hersh was surprised by a representative officer’s reaction when he asked about the My Lai massacre: “I’ll never cease to be amazed that it hasn’t been written about before.” In an article adapted for CJR’s Winter ’69-’70 issue, Hersh wrote that “the notion that those men thought that the press had somehow fallen on the job is, well, significant.” In early September 1969, the AP briefly reported that Lieutenant William Calley would be charged with the murders “of an unspecified number” of Vietnamese civilians. It brought no follow-up. Hersh got on the story after a late-October tip; rejected by both Life and Look, Hersh published with the left-leaning Dispatch News Agency.