Former Newsmen Remember Day JFK Died

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On November 22, 1963, 22 year old radio reporter Joe Rich was preparing local news in the studios of WOTT in Watertown.

"And all of a sudden the bells started going off on the AP and UPI machines," he said.

The first AP dispatch was nothing but garble.

Rich wondered what was up.

"The next one had more garble but then it said, 'President shot,'" said Rich.

In Ogdensburg, the Journal's daily edition was done.  

Editor Chuck Kelly was on his way home and stopped for gas.

"And I had the door open and it came over the radio that the president had been shot," he said.

Kelly rushed back to the office, thinking he'd have to stop the presses.

What he didn't realize was that while he was out, his presses had broken down, which bought valuable time.

"We remade the front page - big bold letters. Press started about a quarter of three, I think it was, and we were one of the few papers in New York state - afternoon papers - that got it in that edition," said Kelly.

Ted Ford, an announcer for WWNY radio, and later for WWNY-TV, was scheduled for an evening shift. 

He went, but there wasn't much to do but listen to the network.

"But I did say a silent prayer that the country would be just fine after this," said Ford.

At mid-afternoon, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite made the announcement no one has ever forgotten - that John F. Kennedy was dead.

"Walter Cronkite had the black glasses on and was tearing up," said Rich.

It was one time no reporter could be blamed if their voice was unsteady.

"I think my voice was broken when I said it. I'm sure it was," said Rich.

The next day, when young Rich took his microphone out onto the street, even he was surprised at the reaction.

"I just couldn't believe how tearful - actually tearful - people were at what had occurred," he said.

"It was the only thing that anyone was talking about," said Ford.

The talking hasn't stopped to this day.

"I'll never forget that day. Never, never forget it," said Kelly.

Thursday, April 17, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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