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How the JFK Assassination Changed North Texas Media

The 2013 Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics presents a special event

The fourteenth annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics at SMU will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with a special presentation, “How the JFK Assassination Changed North Texas Media.” Legendary Dallas journalist Hugh Aynesworth will introduce and moderate a panel of journalists who covered the historic events of November 1963, including Bob Huffaker, Darwin Payne and S. Griffin Singer.  The event will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2 in Caruth Auditorium, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. The event is free; however, tickets are required and must be reserved in advance by calling the Meadows Ticket Office at 214-768-2787.  The ticket office is open 12-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Sammons Lecture Series is presented by the Division of Journalism at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

Hugh Aynesworth has been a reporter since 1948 and is widely considered the journalistic authority on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  He had another assignment as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 22, 1963, but decided to take a long lunch and then walk over to the presidential motorcade.  He was an eyewitness to the assassination and then covered every major event related to the assassination, including the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald and his murder two days later by Jack Ruby.  Among his many distinguished investigative projects, Aynesworth proved that self-proclaimed mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas had, in fact, perpetuated a hoax and could not possibly have killed more than 100 people as claimed by Texas authorities.  Aynesworth is the author of November 22, 1963: Witness to History, published to mark the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Bob Huffaker, reporter for KRLD and CBS, broadcast the JFK motorcade, the Parkland vigil and the Oswald shooting. He interviewed Oswald’s mother and covered Jack Ruby’s trial. The Radio Television News Directors Association awarded his KRLD team its top honor for spot reporting.  Huffaker became an English professor, then a Texas Monthly editor. He wrote John Fowles: Naturalist of Lyme Regis, a trusted study of the English writer, and colleagues Wes Wise, Bill Mercer and George Phenix joined him in When the News Went Live, which next week is being published in a 50th anniversary edition.

Darwin Payne taught journalism at SMU for 30 years and is now professor emeritus. His career in journalism began as a reporter for the Fort Worth Press, and at the time of the assassination of John Kennedy he was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald. He is the author of numerous books on Dallas history, as well as a biographer of the writers Owen Wister and Frederick Lewis Allen, U.S. Judge Sarah T. Hughes, and Dallas’s first African-American judge, Louis A. Bedford Jr.  He wrote In Honor of the Mustangs, the centennial history of SMU athletics, and is presently writing the centennial history of SMU.

S. Griffin (Griff) Singer has devoted almost 60 years to journalism, in practice and as an educator. He retired from the University of Texas School of Journalism in 2003 but still is active part-time.  His teaching at UT-Austin centered on professional-level skills courses in reporting, writing, editing and design.  Seven of his former students have won Pulitzer Prizes.   He worked at the Arlington Citizen-Journal, The Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Light.  During summers, he was assistant metro editor and writing coach at the Houston Chronicle.  Singer, a Dallas native, was an assistant city editor at The Dallas Morning News at the time of the JFK assassination and the trial of Jack Ruby.

The Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture Series in Media Ethics is funded by a generous endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, at the recommendation of Mary Anne Sammons Cree of Dallas. The series is named in honor of her mother, Rosine Smith Sammons, who graduated from SMU in the 1920s with a degree in journalism. The endowment will provide permanent resources for the Meadows School of the Arts to present annual lectures focusing on media ethics.

The Division of Journalism, under Belo Distinguished Chair Tony Pederson, offers concentrations in all media – broadcast, print and Internet – through its convergence journalism program. With the help of a gift from The Belo Foundation, the Division has become one of the few journalism schools in the country to provide hands-on experience through a new digital newsroom, television studio and website.

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