Critic: ‘Boomers making assassination anniversary about themselves’

Did you expect a generational dispute to break out today?

From what I can tell from my Twitter feed today, a lot of people are watching either the CBS or NBC “live” feeds of this moment in 1963 today. NPR and other organizations are “live tweeting” as if it’s 1963.

Some people find this distasteful.

In a harsh generational commentary on Salon.com this afternoon, Daniel D’Addario suggests it’s one more example of young baby-boomer, mainstream media members are longing for a day when they controlled information:

Fifty years later, and CBS is still hung up on its scoop. It’s remarkable, by contrast, how quickly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, news organizations recognized that what had been unique about the day was not their coverage of it. “Morning Joe” will rebroadcast the “Today” coverage of the towers falling each year, but that’s as far as news networks trumpeting their own centrality to the day goes.

Perhaps that’s because the anchors most active in news coverage in 2001 were accustomed to a landscape in which the news, not the newsman, had come to be the most important thing. When Tom Brokaw memorializes Kennedy, he’s memorializing an unsustainable environment, one in which he and men like him were the arbiters of information. Now, perfectly in line with the boomer generation, the only information he can exclusively give us is about himself.

Perhaps, but in defense of the “old guard,” people who are watching the “live 1963 coverage” will note reporters didn’t get much wrong, didn’t speculate on motive, didn’t proclaim someone dead who was alive, and regularly said “we don’t know” when they didn’t know something.

It’s also worth noting that neither Brokaw, nor any of the other reporters of the day who are remembering it now, are Baby Boomers.

  • Al

    My husband and I have noticed the exact same thing–although Brokaw et al. aren’t Boomers, it’s pretty clear that the folks with their hands on the programming buttons are. Meh, this is the world we live in. Don’t worry–it’s not like we millennials are all that put off by Boomers trying to hold on to what made their generation significant. We’re watching, learning, and [somewhat less patiently] waiting.

    • You mean this year’s programming? True, but that’s not so much a singular generational thing as a reality of news: What gets covered is what those covering it/programming it can personally relate to. That’s not going to change in this or any other generation.

      There is a question of whether incoming generations have a good sense of history, for what’s that’s worth. My generation, for example, understands what Pearl Harbor day is/was, but has no real ability to feel how it changed the world since we don’t really have a sense for what the world was before it. Plus, there’s the little fact that the world is always changing.

      I think there are a lot of interesting angles that STILL aren’t being covered, and maybe can’t be until everyone is dead. Kennedy was martyr and i think there’s a legitimate discussion to have about whether a martyr is necessary to ignite events that effect earth-shattering change.

      I’m struck, in particular, by the lack of any women in the coverage — other than Nancy Dickerson and one other. And, obviously, there are no African Americans.

      Arguably, since the Civil Rights Act passed in part because of sympathy for a dead president, we might not be where we are now w.r.t. both had Kennedy not died. (Not saying we don’t have a long way to go).

      I’m not entirely sure history and human nature allows that discussion until everyone alive in ’63 is dead so that it’s the intellectual exercise it deserves, and not the emotional one it still is.

      • Al

        I appreciate that you say incoming generations–plural–when you question whether we have a good sense of history. It’s a tug-of-war, I suppose, between those who’ve studied history, and those who have lived through it. Which is sort of a shame–the ideal situation would be analysis that benefits from both perspectives.

        The emotional nature of history is what speaks to people, but is maybe more difficult to convey. Growing up, I didn’t understand (and probably still fully don’t) the gravity of the civil rights movement until I saw kids my age blown down the street by fire hoses.

        Truly thoughtful journalism has the power to help newer generations understand and link to the past by asking younger viewers to think about how an event might impact them were it to happen today. Instead of recounting ad nauseam where they were when JFK was assassinated–because there’s sufficient coverage of that already–instead ask (as you did) what would happen if our president was here this morning, and gone this afternoon. That’s food for thought.

  • MrE85

    Ban the Dan.

  • tboom

    I have no doubt, on 9/11/2051 there will be a group of individuals (yet to be born), that will readily and vocally criticize another group of individuals (born in the 1980’s) for their audacity in remembering a significant and tragic event that took place in their lives 50 short years previous.

  • Even after all this time, I still can’t get my head around the idea of having a different president a half hour from now than the one we have at this instant. I was too young, I think, to appreciate what an unbelievable accomplishment in the transition that was.