Assassination

Copyright: John Frost Newspapers

The newspaper: The Daily Sketch

The date: November 25, 1963

The news event: Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of President Kennedy, is gunned down

What you see

Every newspaper wants 'live' images of a major news event. This front page captures the precise moment when Lee Harvey Oswald, the man believed to have shot JFK, was himself assassinated. A Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby had shot Oswald, claiming he 'did it for Jackie', Kennedy's wife. In an amazing stroke of luck, the Daily Sketch reporter happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time, enabling him to send an 'exclusive' story back to the newspaper in London.

Background

Where were you when you heard the news? People alive in the 1960s are still asked this question about the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was after all one of the most powerful men in the world. The event shook the world. The president had been shot whilst driving through Dallas in a convertible limousine with his beautiful wife, Jackie. Everyone alive at the time remembers what he or she was doing. There was talk of another world war. Just two days after the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald, the man believed to be JFK's murderer, was himself killed. Then the endless theories began as to whether it was Oswald who did the dirty deed. At the time, Oswald was caught with enough evidence to make everyone believe he was guilty, even though he never went to trial. There were rumours of gangsters being involved, and the Russians, even the CIA; the list of conspiracies became very long.

The front page

Every journalist dreams about an 'exclusive', hoping to capture the unique story that 'wows' the public. The shooting of Oswald was such a dramatic event, also seen live on television, that national newspapers in Britain and in other countries carried it as their main article. The paper ran the full version of the story on its back page, pushing sporting coverage inside.

The page uses the emotive language of a Hollywood movie: 'I'm no hero - I did it for Jackie'; 'The Executioner'; 'the law of the gun'. Even the image seems straight out of a gangster movie. The sensationalistic tone of the page simplifies what was in reality a very complex event - remember that Oswald had not been found guilty in a court of law, and his assassination made that process impossible. The 'law of the gun,' as the paper puts it, had closed the case.

Design

The page is straightforward and full of impact. Three simple headlines: The first: I'm no hero - I did it for Jackie' were Ruby's words. The two word 'splash' headline: THE EXECUTIONER needs no explanation. At the bottom of the page, the newspaper tells its readers that a 'Sketch man' was there to see the assassin 'die by the law of the gun'. Then, of course, the stunning picture full of movement, emotion, pain, shock and even horror, running across the full width of the tabloid.