Friday, November 13, 2009

November, 1963: The best examples of nat sound carrying a story

I've been reading Joe McGinniss' terrific book on Teddy Kennedy (The Last Brother) and it brought back memories of JFK's assassination. Those few days are widely regarded as the turning point for television news; when America turned on the TV for big news instead of the radio.

So lately I've been watching some of the vintage coverage of those days online, and it's amazing how much television news has changed. The most obvious difference is that these days anchors just don't know when to shut up and let the pictures and the sound carry the story.

Talk to anyone who lived through that period and ask about JFK's funeral. Ask what sound comes to mind.

It's the unmistakable rat-a-tat of the drums during the funeral procession. I can hear it like it was yesterday, like a song stuck in your head for a lifetime.

And it was nice that the anchors of that day knew enough to say very little, because they didn't have to. They were as quiet as America's living rooms. That was the definition of viewers being riveted, not something regarding a silly hoax involving a balloon.

Riveted, and no one on an anchor desk had to say a word.

I encourage those of you not old enough to have lived through this to spend some time watching the coverage of those four days in November, 1963. It's all easily accessible online. Pay attention to the lack of sensationalism, to the way the pictures and sound were more powerful than anything an anchor could say.

There are three parts to every story: words, pictures and sound. Many times the latter two are enough.

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