JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The very first page of Channel 12 TV news copy found in our archives relating to the assassination of President Kennedy is dated November 22, 1963 6:24 p.m.
Typed with hand-written corrections it says, "More than 200 calls came through the Channel 12 switchboard during the afternoon, while staff members and others gathered in the news room to verify the truth... the President of the United States is dead."
President Kennedy was shot Friday at 12:30 p.m. central time in Dallas, 1:30 p.m. in Jacksonville.
This is the Channel 12, 6 p.m. news, some four hours later.
"As soon as Jacksonville's Mayor Burns received word of Mr. Kennedy's death, he cancelled all appointments for the afternoon and declared the city in a state of official mourning," the anchor says, " ...Mayor Burns has postponed the rally at which he was scheduled to announce he will run for governor."
Television was still relatively new in '63 and Kennedy's assassination began the first so called wall-to-wall coverage of a news event.
The National Broadcasting Company's Chet Huntley and David Brinkley stayed on the air almost continuously during the dizzying days of Kennedy's death, Oswald's arrest, Oswald's murder and the president's funeral.
Time was allotted periodically for local news.
A script now from November 23rd: "This is a special announcement from the Channel 12 News Department. The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce reports that a number of stores will be closed until two o'clock Monday afternoon. These are department stores, clothing stores, variety stores, jewelry stores and furniture stores. Food stores will be closed only from noon until two o'clock."
Just a day after the assassination, the Channel 12 news team begins to peer into the next administration: "What kind of president will Lyndon B. Johnson be?" the anchorman says.
"For space-minded Florida, this much can be said... On the basis of his past record, President Johnson may be expected to push space programs even more strongly than did President Kennedy." He goes on to say, "Mr. Johnson is not unacquainted with this area. Just last March he came to Jacksonville and St. Augustine, was rushed from the airport to the campus of Jacksonville University by car. President Johnson received Jacksonville University's first honorary Doctor of Laws Degree."
Finally, through these time-capsule TV news scripts we learn that just like today's Facebook, Twitter and email, the 1963 telephone was perfectly capable of receiving anonymous complaints from viewers.
During the late news November 26th, an editorial of sorts: "The continuous coverage of events following the assassination of the late President obviously did not please everyone. Many people voiced such views to this and other stations. That's their prerogative, and we're always glad to hear opinions. There was reason for annoyance, however, with usually anonymous individuals who used the occasion to pour out personal bitterness and assail the entire industry for documenting any and all aspects of the rapidly-unfolding events."
First Coast News