Retired journalist remembers reporting on JFK's killing - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Retired journalist remembers reporting on JFK's killing


They say journalism is the first draft of history.

Exactly 50 years ago Friday, Jack Hovelson was a young reporter at the Waterloo Courier. Then, the shot heard round the world --

"The door burst open and the City Editor came rushing in," said Hovelson. "He was kind of a large man, he never moved very fast, but he sure moved fast that day ... He said Dave ... the President has been shot."

They sprang into action. The paper was set to print in just a few minutes.

"And so for the one and only time in my 40 years of newspapering, I was in on a 'stop the presses' cry to the press room," Hovelson said.

All the while, in the background, the news wire Teletype machines were tapping away, bringing the news from Dallas in bursts.

"This is my most vivid memory," said Hovelson. "We were watching the Teletype machines ... and the thing that is just indelible in my mind is looking at the machine, tap tap tap -- Kennedy dead -- and we stopped."

"That's when stuff started pouring in," he continued. "We were stunned, but couldn't stand around and look at thing. We had to process."

Reporters often struggle to find just the right words to tell their stories, but in this case, that was literally true. The editors scrambled to find a big enough type face just to print the headline, "PRESIDENT KENNEDY IS KILLED BY SNIPER."

Their editions went out, bringing the terrible news of Kennedy's killing to the Cedar Valley.

"We were recording, chronicling history, and that's what newspapers do," Hovelson said. "It's like they say, it's the first account of a very historical event."

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