Television news is capable of reaching hundreds of millions of people around the world. This has a way of giving major news events a shared feeling. People from all walks of life come together to witness history unfold in real time, creating memories that can last a lifetime.
Experiencing these events in a very different way are the people who actually report on them. Typically, television journalists are expected to maintain an objective point of view, and to react to events with minimal emotion. But journalists are people, too, and they have the same reactions to the news that everyone does - they just don't show it. In some cases, broadcasters might even have personal connections to the people involved in these events. When these events end tragically, that only compounds the difficulty.
From Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite to Tom Brokaw and Anderson Cooper, many broadcasters have opened up about what it was actually like to report on the world's biggest news events. Here's what these journalists experienced while breaking world-historical news.
- Photo: NBC News13,453 VOTES
After Covering 9/11 For 12 Hours, Tom Brokaw Sat On His Bed And Cried For 40 Minutes
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 shocked the world. Tom Brokaw spent more than a dozen hours broadcasting that day, uttering the memorable line, "This will change us. We're at war."
After his day was finished, Brokaw went home to his New York City apartment, which was empty because his wife and family were out of town. Then, Brokaw received news that a family friend had passed that day, unrelated to the attacks. Brokaw said he wept on his bed for 40 minutes.
- Photo: NBC News
On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger took off from the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, FL. Among its seven-person crew was Christina McAuliffe, a New Hampshire social studies teacher. NASA hoped the inclusion of an everyday schoolteacher would increase interest in the space program. Millions of people watched in horror as the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff.
It was a national tragedy, and for NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, the day was especially difficult. Crew member Judy Resnick was a personal friend. Resnick had worked with Brokaw as an astronautics expert for previous broadcasts of shuttle launches. "I knew she was onboard, and it was a hard, hard day," Brokaw told podcast host David Axelrod. Despite the difficulty, Brokaw anchored a marathon session of NBC News, which explored the backgrounds of the doomed astronauts, filled in emerging details about the disaster, and offered thoughts on the meaning of it all.
- Photo: CBS
In 1963, Walter Cronkite's reporting on the John F. Kennedy assassination - coming as a special bulletin interrupting the soap opera As the World Turns - was the first news millions of Americans received about the shocking event. It's also another immortal moment in journalistic history, because of Cronkite's momentary emotional reaction. You can hear a catch in Cronkite's voice as he confirms Kennedy's death.
"We are all suffering the same emotional reaction to a tragedy," Cronkite told CNN in 2003. "The tragedy that affected people whether they were Republicans or Democrats, whether liberals or conservatives. It was the youth of the president and being denied his future. And our future with him, whether you agree with his particular policies or not."
- Photo: CBS42,612 VOTES
When The Apollo Spacecraft Landed, All Walter Cronkite Could Say Was ‘Oh, Boy’
While being a television news journalist often requires covering the world's most shocking tragic events, occasionally, journalists get to cover stories that are genuinely inspiring - like the July 1969 moon landing by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, known as "The Most Trusted Man in America," couldn't contain his glee. "Oh, boy!" Cronkite exclaimed. He turned to broadcast partner Wally Shirra, who was himself tearing up: "Wally, say something. I'm speechless."
Cronkite did manage to recover and deliver a fitting summary of the events. Later in the broadcast, Cronkite said, "The date's now indelible. It's going to be remembered as long as man survives."
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One of the most iconic news broadcasts of the 20th century is Herbert Morrison's reporting on the Hindenburg airship disaster, when the largest-ever dirigible (at the time) exploded while coming off its moorings in Lakehurst, NJ. Morrison reported on the ship's takeoff, and when the Hindenburg exploded, he thought all of the ship's nearly 100 passengers and crew had perished instantly.
In the moment, Morrison momentarily excused himself from the broadcast. Then, he calmly continued to report on the crash and its aftermath. Morrison learned that 62 of the people onboard had survived, and he interviewed many of them.
Morrison's broadcast has become famous for its apparently hysterical tone, but this neglects the calm and professional manner in which he continued to report after the famous clip. Additionally, the clip is often played back at the wrong speed, making Morrison's voice sound more high-pitched than it really was.
- Photo: Monday Night Football / ABC63,077 VOTES
On December 8, 1980, the New England Patriots were playing the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The game came down to a last-second field goal attempt by Patriots kicker John Smith. This was also around the time when news broke that Beatles legend John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his New York City apartment.
Broadcaster Howard Cosell and his team debated whether to make an announcement. Audio recordings of the broadcast picked up Cosell expressing his doubts. “Fellas, I just don’t know. I’d like your opinion. I can’t see this game situation allowing for that news flash," Cosell said.
Ultimately, Cosell's broadcasting partner and former NFL player Frank Gifford convinced him to share the news. “You’ve got to. If you know it, we’ve got to do it,” Gifford said. “Don’t hang on it. It’s a tragic moment, and this is going to shake up the whole world.”
During a pause in the gameplay, Gifford said on the air, "I don't care what's on the line, Howard, you have got to say what we know in the booth." Cosell proceeded to announce the tragic news:
Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous perhaps, of all of the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival.