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Picking the top story

Looking back on News Headlines - November 25, 1963

Would you choose Kennedy's funeral or the murder of Oswald?

On November 25, 1963, newspaper editors across the country were faced with a decision. They had to determine whether the funeral of John F. Kennedy or the assassination of Kennedy's alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, would appear as their paper's top story.

As you look through newspapers from November 25, 1963, on, you'll find that some papers like the Indiana Evening Gazette chose to honor President Kennedy on the front page and made no mention of Lee Harvey Oswald. While other newspapers such as The Post Standard decided to highlight the two Pulitzer quality photos of the shooting of Oswald taken by Dallas photographers Bob Jackson and Jack Beers. Still, other news editors settled on featuring both stories on the front page. The Newark Advocate showed dramatic photos of the funeral on the top fold while the story of Oswald's assassination was displayed in the left quarter of the front page.

Most editors likely made their decision about the top story based on the articles they had available at the time the paper went to press. Yet, even if a newspaper featured the Oswald murder as the banner headline, Kennedys funeral was still mentioned. Newspapers with later deadlines wrote about everything at the funeral from the coffin being carried down the Capitol steps to the way Jacqueline Kennedys black veil blew in the wind.

"The mournful beat of muffled drums. The slow clip clop of the horse caisson moving down Pennsylvania Avenue. Caroline and John pressing their faces against the black window of the slow rolling limousine. The silent staring masses shuffling past the flag-draped coffin in the great rotunda of the Capitol. Tragic and unforgettable, these images of grief shimmer in the air today as the nation observes a day of solemn mourning to mark the funeral of its assassinated leader, John F. Kennedy," Associated Press writer Hugh Mulligan wrote.

Along with the national coverage, almost every newspaper had a local story that told of mourning in their own community. "Somehow, anything and everything that was done in Wisconsin, in the nation, today seemed inadequate in the face of the suddenness and violence of the young President's death," The Sheboygan Press from Wisconsin wrote on November 25, 1963. The News from Frederick, Maryland, told of the number of memorial services held in churches, schools and synagogues in their community. "Frederick itself moved in stilled silence today. Most of the business houses and city office buildings closed their doors and the streets were almost deserted as people remained in their homes or attended church to pay tribute to the late Mr. Kennedy," the paper wrote.

The Kennedy assassination is one of those major events in American history that usually sparks personal memories. Most people who can remember the assassination think back to where they were the day the day the president died. Those who were born after November of 1963, have heard stories from their parents or grandparents. As you read beyond the headlines this week, take a look at how various newspapers covered the funeral of John F. Kennedy. The articles may trigger personal memories of your own or tell the story for the first time.

Crystal Hardinger

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