Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot outside a Memphis hotel on April 4, 1968. As with the assassination of President Kennedy five years earlier, journalists and reporters assembled the facts as quickly as they could, scrambling to break updates to a horrified public. The reporters working for the Westinghouse News Bureau (also known as “Group W”) in Washington, D.C. were among them.
At the Library of American Broadcasting, the Westinghouse Tape Morgue is one of the most unique audiovisual collections in the archives. Spanning the 1960s and 70s, these 7” reel-to-reel magnetic tapes contain thousands of voice cuts and interviews from members of every branch of the federal government, as well as political leaders and activists of the era. This raw material was a vital source for the network’s news broadcasts.
The clips featured here from an April 4, 1968 tape show how the day’s reports continuously developed with additional details about the circumstances of the assassination. One of them reveals a more behind-the-scenes glimpse into the arduous and frustrating process of trying to track down a story.