Departmental Papers (ASC)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version

January 1992

Publication Source

Covering the Body : The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory

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The tale of President Kennedy's death was, of course, more than a story about journalism. This meant that journalists needed to do more than perpetuate narratives that emphasized their own authority for the story: they needed to account for other authorities too.

Nearly three decades after the assassination, journalists' competition with the independent critics had taken on familiar forms. Some critics had either voluntarily abandoned the story or been marginalized by mainstream journalism. Those who continued to investigate it coexisted with reporters tensely, in recognized, circumscribed channels.

Historians, on the other hand, who had not yet played an active part in recording the assassination, had no such familiar patterns of interaction with journalists. Yet history remained the main discipline with a clear claim to the tale. Journalists were attentive to the fact that historians had not yet fully addressed the story, and they began to consider the role of history in its retelling. History gave journalists a way to tailor their assassination memories into a consideration of the structure of their own profession. These tales privileged considerations of the profession of journalism over those of the individual, organization, or institution.


NOTE: At the time of publication, author Barbie Zelizer was affiliated with Temple University. Currently(March 2008), she is a faculty member at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 04 March 2008