By Caelan Bernal

New York Times, June 6 1968, front page

AP Photo by Charlie Tasnadi

AP Photo by Charlie Tasnadi

The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968, was national news, so it should be reported in every news outlet that is planning commemorative coverage of the 1960s. I looked at the coverage of The New York Times from Thursday, June 6, 1968: the day of the assassination.

Page 1 of the New York Times is mostly dedicated to the assassination. Two separate images on the front page depict Kennedy; one from right after Kennedy was assassinated, lying on the floor, dead or dying and the other a headshot of Kennedy. The images are in black and white. Besides those two pictures there aren’t any other graphics on the page.

Front page of the New York Times

Several columns of stories riddle the front page, making it look very busy, graphically seaking, the layout doesn’t attract the eye to any one story in particular. The focus seems to be on the actual news, running several stories in narrow columns. By contrast, The New York Times’ front page from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, is much more orderly, and the pictures take up more space. The order of the newspaper makes it easier to read as opposed to the fragmented stories of the 1969 edition. The differing styles of the newspapers from the two time periods are not only obvious, but interesting. Newspapers today are friendlier, aimed at trying to grab the viewer’s eye and keeping it. The older issue of the New York Times from 1968 doesn’t look as reader-friendly, and the layout isn’t as well-organized.

Headline from 1968

The headline is different from the ones found today in both content and size. It is lengthy and packed with as much information that the editors could fit into it. It reads: “KENNEDY IS DEAD, VICTIM OF ASSASSIN; SUSPECT, ARAB IMMIGRANT, ARRAIGNED; JOHNSON APPOINTS PANNEL ON VIOLENCE”. This headline seems longer than most and full of information. The part about Johnson appointing the panel on violence doesn’t seem as pertinent to the rest of the story. If the headline were written today, it wouldn’t be as long and would only include the most important parts of the information. Also The Times describes the assassin as an “Arab”. I don’t know if the paper was aware of the specific country of origin, but it is now known he is Palestinian, of Jordanian citizenship. After searching the AP Stylebook, I am still unsure if Arab is the correct term or even politically correct.

The lead and story

The dateline and lead read as follows: “Los Angeles, Thursday, June 6–Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of a murdered President, died at 1:44 A.M. today of an assassin’s shots.” His brother, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated only 5 years prior. Robert is named only in reference to “murdered president” which gives it a different context or feeling than merely “assassinated president”. Also, dying from the “assassin’s shot” is an interesting way to word this. Again I looked it up in the AP stylebook but I couldn’t find any more information. It is strange to see wording like this. The rest of the story seems to be standard news writing.

New York Times, June 6, 1968, from the Alkek Microfilm Collection

New York Times, June 6, 1968, from the Alkek Microfilm Collection

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