This month marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination—an event that shook a nation and whose effects are still felt today. In a new book, November 22, 1963: Reflections On The Life, Assassination And Legacy Of John F. Kennedy, journalist Dean R. Owen collects more than 100 remembrances of JFK and that fateful day. The contributors include the Secret Service agent who tried to shield the president; his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy; Tom Brokaw; and the priest who gave JFK his last rites.
We’re publishing a series of these reflections in the weeks leading up to Nov. 22. The first, from Alex Trebek, who was a journalist in Canada at the time, below.
In those days I was working as a staff announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at its English language headquarters in Toronto, and hosting my first television show, Music Hop, a sort of Canadian version of American Bandstand.
On November 22, 1963, I was on booth duty doing news, weather, sports and station breaks for the national radio network when the news came in from Dallas. I was the one who read the UPI wire that confirmed the death of the president. At that time, the CBC had a standing protocol that with the death of her majesty the queen, the prime minister, or another major world figure, our regular programming would cease and we would start playing classical music that was to be interrupted by announcements every fifteen minutes or so. That’s what we did.
However, even though I was the most junior announcer on staff, I saw this for the huge news story that it was, and one that was ongoing, so I went to see the news director on duty and made the case that the tragedy of the American president’s assassination was far too important to cease all broadcasting and that the CBC had a responsibility to our listeners to keep them informed as to what was happening. Fortunately he agreed, and for the rest of the day and into the weekend we aired news feeds from all the American radio and TV networks.