An unforgettable day, from wire to wire

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Northeastern alumnus Kenneth Scola was working at The Boston Globe on his first co-op the day President John F. Kennedy was shot. It was an experience he said he will never forget. Photo via Thinkstock.

When North­eastern alumnus Ken­neth Scola thinks back to Nov. 22, 1963, the day Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy was killed, he remem­bers the sound of bells.

As the copy boy in The Boston Globe wire room that day, Scola’s first co-op, it was his job to read bul­letins from national news agen­cies and deliver them to the news­room copy desk. The then 19-year-old was all by him­self that after­noon 50 years ago when the bells on the wire machines started ringing, sig­naling major incoming news.

“Back then there were words that indi­cated varying degrees of impor­tance like ‘bul­letin’ and ‘flash,’” explained Scola, AS’67, who grad­u­ated with an Eng­lish degree and a jour­nalism minor. “‘Flash’ is the highest pri­ority, and I had never seen it before that day. I looked at the wire and saw, ‘The pres­i­dent has been shot.’”

Kenneth Scola

Ken­neth Scola

Scola, 69, said at first he wasn’t sure which pres­i­dent it was. All day he had read updates from Kennedy’s visit to Texas, but he didn’t think it could be the former Mass­a­chu­setts sen­ator and congressman.

When he real­ized exactly what hap­pened, Scola yelled out to Jim Keddy, the Globe’s slotman, and told him to get to the wire room. It was Keddy’s job to take the bul­letins from Scola and dis­tribute them to reporters.

“[After Keddy learned the pres­i­dent had been shot] he went back out to the news­room and I heard him say ‘Clear your desks, there’s only one story today,’” Scola said. “After that it was an amazing day to be at a news­paper. Everyone was working at full speed.”

Scola’s workday started at 5:45 a.m., and he was there until mid-afternoon after Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. Like almost everyone else in the country, he recalled the newspaper’s staff hud­dling around the one tele­vi­sion in the news­room to watch the story unfold.

“It kind of took me aback to see some of these harden news­pa­permen, guys who had cov­ered mur­ders and other tragic sto­ries, in tears,” Scola said.

Fol­lowing his co-op, Scola worked for the Globe’s sports depart­ment for four years. He said he was very grateful for the real-world expe­ri­ence he received on that first co-op. “I never could have gotten the level of expe­ri­ence I received if I went to another school,” Scola explained. “The co-op job, I believe, was instru­mental in helping form my career.”

Scola went on to have a suc­cessful career in adver­tising, but said as a jour­nalism co-op stu­dent, there was no day “as exciting in a bizarre kind of way” than Nov. 22, 1963.

Written by Joe O'Connell

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This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.