Sixth Floor Reminders of Why Journalism Matters

A glass case with the Associated Press teletype that was used to disseminate information at the scene of the shooting sits on a stand in the museum, a reminder of how quickly the press hustled to spread the news of JFK's assasination.
The Associated Press teletype that was used to disseminate information about JFK's assassination.

I’ve heard people say that newspapers are the rough draft of history. On Saturday, I gained a better understanding of what this means.

While at the Sixth Floor Museum in downtown Dallas where John F. Kennedy was shot, I gravitated toward a display titled: “Pandemonium and the Press.” The display shows photos of journalists at the scene of JFK”s death and features vignettes about the role of the press during this traumatic moment in history.

Many of the photos and documents in the museum would not be there if it hadn’t been for journalists. There were no bystanders sending mass text messages or bloggers detailing the events of Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. Reporters had to act fast with little technological help. And act fast they did. They provided vivid photos of the presidential limo speeding down Elm Street after JFK was shot, and wrote stories for the next day’s paper about his death and the emotional reaction it stirred. “The press and the television people just took over,” Forrest V. Sorrels of the Secret Service said at the time.

I saw more proof of journalists’ hard work when I walked into the museum gift shop. I couldn’t help but buy a reprinted copy of the paper The Dallas Morning News put out the day after Kennedy’s death. For me, it’s a reminder of what journalism is all about: reporting truth and recording history in the making. I’m tempted to hang the reprinted paper in my room, in part because I’m a journalism nerd, but also because I think that now more than ever, it’s important to remember that journalism is a noble profession that still very much matters.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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