Where were you when you heard Kennedy was shot?
According to my mother at least that’s the benchmark question for people of her generation. Everyone seems to be able to describe in extreme detail where they were when the nation was gripped by the news the President had been assassinated.
The 1960s seemed to be the perfect decade for shared experience moments like that. Television had become a mainstay in nearly every home in America, and major news items seemed to be happening every other week. JFK’s assassination, the Beatles on Sullivan, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Kent State Shootings, Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the moon landing. These were all events that were faced together through the shared view port of the television.
The benchmark moment for my own generation was 9/11. Where were you when you first heard? For myself, I can remember I was a senior in high school, in my home economics class, when one of the other teachers came to the classroom door to tell our teacher to turn the TV on.
I can remember being strangely calm and analytical about the situation. Probably more than I should have been. Shock, perhaps.
Outside of major breaking news events the opportunity for these shared media moments is dwindling in the age of DVRs. Many pre-scheduled “event” programs are being watched on delay to suit the schedule of individual viewer. It’s not a bad thing by any means. It has freed the consumer in countless ways. It’s merely something worth acknowledging. A change HAS happened.
On Wednesday May 20th 2015 we had another shared moment. David Letterman ended his thirty-three year long career as a light night talk show host in a star-studded affair that looked back at his history as was punctuated by a final musical performance by Dave’s favorite band, Foo Fighters. It seemed like everyone was watching, and watching it live, no less. Perhaps the age of an event watch isn’t completely dead after all.
I know I’m probably contradicting myself here, because if you’ve been following these posts you’ll have heard me singing the praises of new media as long as I can. That being said, I hope the era of shared media experiences that can reach across a country; across a world; doesn’t disappear completely. It’s comforting to know we aren’t all alone in the dark with just a flickering screen to keep us company. Moments like this make us one big family
Keith is a freelance writer at Black Powder Design and a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in animation. Keith hosts a podcast on the Deliberate Noise Network titled The Keith Show Show starring Keith. He is also the illustrator and writer of his own comic series called Stale Popcorn.