Denny’s Daily Zinger: The Greatest Writing! Tom Wicker From Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963
The day President Kennedy was shot, The New York Times had one relatively unknown reporter in Dallas, Tom Wicker, age 37. His 3,696-word front-page account is a masterpiece.
For the news media today, it’s easy to cobble together a story. Journalists have cellphones, helicopter and drone photos, Google, Internet posts, cable TV coverage and instant communications with the newsroom half a world away.
In 1963, Wicker was one guy tearing all over Dallas. A sampling of his memories of that black day:
I stood still a moment, then began running … I jumped a chain fence looping around the drive, not even breaking stride.
The search for phones began. Jack Gertz, traveling with us for AT&T, was frantically moving them by the dozen into the hospital but few were ready yet. I wandered down the hall, found a doctor’s office, walked in, and told him I had to use the phone. He got up without a word and left. I battled the hospital switchboard for five minutes and finally got a line to New York …
[New York Herald Tribune’s Douglas] Kiker and I ran a half-mile to the terminal, cutting through a baggage-handling room to get there. I went immediately to a phone booth and dictated my 500-word lead, correcting it as I read, embellishing it, too.
Journalism will never get any better than this!
Serious writers should re-read this every New Year’s morning with resolve to go and do likewise.
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