Founder / Editor


Associate Editor


Assistant Editor











On NBC JFK Special, Brokaw Asks 'Where Were You?' - On 'Fresh Air,' I Give My Answer
November 21, 2013  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

Friday, on the exact 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, NBC’s Tom Brokaw, in a special subtitled The Day JFK Died (9 p.m. ET), asks Where Were You? That same day, on NPR’s Fresh Air, I give my answer…

But I hadn’t planned to.

The report I had prepared, in my job as TV critic for Fresh Air with Terry Gross, was one which put the 50-year-old event in a television context, then and now.

Then: On those four days beginning on Nov. 22, 1963, the broadcast television networks combined to present what still remains the most significant TV event ever presented.

Now: Fifty years later, the month of November has brought a flurry of related specials – actually, more a storm than a flurry. In the piece I prepared for Fresh Air, I talked about what made the 1963 coverage so significant, and identified some of the best of the current TV specials about JFK and that tragic weekend.

After reading my script, though, Fresh Air executive producer Danny Miller wondered if, given how unforgettable the JFK assassination remains to everyone old enough to have lived through it, I should add my personal recollections and circumstances to the story. Phyllis Myers, who produces all my TV reviews for Fresh Air, agreed, and over the decades, I’ve learned the smartest thing for me, by far, is to trust their instincts.

It was Phyllis, after all, whose instincts I trusted a dozen years ago, when recording my report on the breaking news coverage that comes closest, in TV history and impact, to the JFK assassination and aftermath: the terrorist attacks of 9/11. After watching days of coverage, I recorded my report on what I’d seen and how I’d reacted – but midway through, my voice became almost overcome with emotion. When I finished recording, I was sure I’d start over with “take two,” but Phyllis said no.  That piece was broadcast as recorded on that first pass, and, in retrospect, I’m very happy it was, because it captures, at least to me, exactly how raw we all were back then. (That 9/11 report is one of my Fresh Air archive pieces presented on this website.)

So when Phyllis and Danny wanted me to add a personal perspective to my JFK coverage, I did, though it was very personal, and I was only 10 at the time. You can hear the report Friday on Fresh Air, or eventually visit the website – and it’ll explain why I ended up watching TV coverage, for the first few hours at least, locked in my bedroom with the only TV set we owned. Hiding the coverage, and the news, from my then-bedridden mother.

We all have stories – different, but equally vivid – if we were old enough to understand what was happening 50 years ago. And one thing I know now, and treasure, is that I’ve spent more than 25 of those years working for Fresh Air. Working with Danny, Phyllis, Terry, and all the other folks at Fresh Air has turned out to be the longest, and most rewarding, professional association of my career– even when one of them asks for a rewrite.

Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 Name (required)
 Email (required) (will not be published)
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
Jim Forkan
I can still recall working at UPI's Personnel office in the Daily News Building on 42nd St., NYC, and my coworkers and I gathered around the teletype for the latest Kennedy news bulletins, each one worse that the last. That started four days of nonstop JFK coverage, through the funeral. Not long after, UPI published a book about those tragic days, "Four Days." Years later, my Multichannel News coworkers and I gathered around the office TV set to see instant news about the Twin Towers tragedy.
At my current job, little was said about the JFK anniversary. Then I realized: few coworkers were alive to witness that tragic week!
Nov 22, 2013   |  Reply
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: