Media Spotlight on JFK, The Movie

Who Shot JFK?  

General Purpose:  To illustrate survey research and how it is used
in contemporary media effects research.

Spotlight Outline

I.   Media Coverage of Event (Greenberg & Parker, 1965)

     A.   Diffusion of News - what we know about the assassination,
            we know through the media.  According to surveys, within
            30 minutes, 70% knew that the President had been shot and
            killed.  Within 1 hour, 90% knew and within 5 hours,
            99.8% knew.

     B.   Source of News - 2 categories

          1.   media (direct) 50 %
          2.   another human being (indirect) - 50% heard from
                another human being who heard it from the mass
	  3.   TV was primary source for continuing coverage

     C.   Fact-Checking and Rumor Control - Info flooded the
            airwaves unchecked.  For example, it was reported that
            the gun was found in 4 different locations, 2-5 bullets
            were found, and that JFK was shot in different areas by
            different guns.

     D.   Dallas Police and Cooperation with Media - there was a
            decision to be open and honest with the media but they
            did not set up a command post to sort out the facts.

     E.   You Can Believe Your Own Eyes - there was the assumption
            that if you heard it on the news, it must be true.

     F.   "Flash" Survey of Public Opinion (Week After)

          1.   Oswald, The Shooter?  72% thought Lee Harvey Oswald
                was the shooter.  28% thought that Lee was set up
                and others were involved.

          2.   A Conspiracy, Of Course - 62% believed there was a
                conspiracy (others plotted with Lee).  20% believed
                the Warren report (Oswald acted alone).  10-14% were

          3.   What Shall We Do About It?- Fewer than 10% believed catching
 		the conspirators was important

     G.   Conclusions

          1.   Very confused reporting from the crime scene
          2.   Failure of Americans to believe there are flaws in
                the reporting
          3.   Large number of people believed in the conspiracy

II.  The movie, "JFK" (Stone & Sklar, 1992) - cost $60 million to
     make the movie

     A.   Content - Jim Garrison believed in the conspiracy and
            wrote several books on it.  Stone used Garrison tapes in
            the movie.

     B.   Controversy - The tapes and books concluded that Oswald
            was set up by invisible forces (DOD, CIA, and Pentagon). 
           Also indicated that Johnson knew about the plot.  They
           wanted Kennedy out of the picture because he did not want
           to continue the Vietnam War.  Official sources claim that
           the movie was a lie.

     C.   Claims

          1.   Three teams of shooters
          2.   Six total shots fired
          3.   Oswald is a "patsy"
          4.   Coup d'etat and massive conspiracy
          5.   Everyone gets away with it

     D.   Does Fiction Influence Beliefs about Facts?  
Stone's movie pictures are different

III. The Effects of Media on Assassination Beliefs

     A.   Goals of study - link as to whether you had seen the
            movie and believe it or the Warren report

     B.   Methods - Survey college adults

     C.   Measurement 

          1.   Self report - tell me what you know
		Exposure to various JFK sources
		Belief in conspiracy
		Belief in Warren report

          2.   Valid report - no reason to lie

     D.   Results - see page 30

     E.   Conclusions about Movie Impact

          1.   Fiction drives your belief about reality. 
                Director's portrayal influences your belief.
          2.   Critical thinking/analysis was not claimed.

IV.  The Warren Commission Report - 26 volumes (see pages 203-205 for

     A.   Background on the Commission - Earl Warren was the Chief
            Justice of the US Supreme Court.  Gerald Ford was also on
            the Commission.  The Commission consisted of seven
            members (spent one year on the investigation).

     B.   Supporting Evidence - 

          1.   Howard Brennan and 3 employees saw the TSBD team
                fire shots and identified Oswald in a line up 3
                times.  This was omitted from the Stone film.
          2.   Sniper's nest, 3 shells, boxes, wrapper
          3.   Rifle, prints, fibers, handwriting, photos
          4.   Hitching a ride witness, curtain rods
          5.   Oswald, marine sharpshooter
          6.   Zapruder film, 5-8 seconds, 1 or 3 misses
          7.   Rifle operation, scope, number, misfires
          8.   Medical evidence JFK and Connally
          9.   Bullet fragments, location, source

     C.   Conclusion:  Oswald was the only shooter

V.   A Closer Look at the Movie's Claim

     A.   Stone's Shooting Sequence

          1.   Dal-Tex Building team misses
          2.   Grassy Knoll team hits JFK in neck (front)
          3.   Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) team hits JFK
                in the back
          4.   Dal-Tex team misses JFK, hits Governor Connally
          5.   TSBD team misses, ricochet hits bystander
          6.   Grassy Knoll team hits JFK in head (front) 
VI.  The End

     A.   Greed is Good, You Know - Stone was willing to stretch
            the truth to attract a large audience to make money. 
		(spent $60 mil)

     B.   Fiction's Impact on Fact - given to you in a fictional venue. 
	Can impact beliefs

     C.   The Very Suspicious Receiver, Sometimes - on the basis of
            the fictional movie

     D.   Survey Research - self report

Back to Notes Table of Contents

Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996 and Charlene McErlane, Spring 2000. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 26, 2000. Edited by Mike Lowry. Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield and Charlene McErlane and Mary Toale, 1996-2001.