JFK assassination transfixed nation - and transformed TV news

JFK assassination transfixed nation - and transformed TV news »Play Video
President John F. Kennedy

EUGENE, Ore. - To today's world accustomed to 24-7 news both on TV and at your fingertips, the nightly news of 1963 likely appears primitive.

On airwaves dominated by "Lassie" and "Perry Mason" and "Marshal Dillon," the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was the first to expand to 30 minutes from just 15 that year.

Then came the events of November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

"The flash - President Kennedy has been shot 3 times," said Tim Gleason, former dean of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communicaiton. "Those four days really did help move broadcast television into a new era. It was one they were beginning to go into."A

"Were we at war? Was someone else going to be shot?" Jacque Taylor recalled thinking.

From the shooting in Dallas to President Kennedy's burial, network TV went with unprecedented wall to wall coverage, something that had never been done before on TV.

A nation was transfixed. As Americans came to grips with the tragedy, the TV set became the nation's common hearth.

Among the unforgettable moments for millions of people watching that day on CBS was the image of Walter Cronkite delivering the shocking news.

"From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. central standard time, 2 o'clock eastern standard time - some 38 minutes ago," Cronkite said, pulling his glasses from his face as he read the news.

Penny Wardle was a college student at the time.

"When he took his glasses off we just, I mean, 19 years old? He takes his glasses off - you know it's serious.," she said.

"And that too, I think, it really kind of helped bond audiences to television," Gleason said.

Nielsen rating numbers show that by November 25, 81 percent of the nation's homes had their eyes glued to the screen.

"Everyone in my family watched that funeral procession," Taylor said, "and when John-John saluted, I still get broken up about it."

CBSNews.com plans to livestream the original CBS News broadcasts from 1963 starting at 10:40 a.m. PST on Friday