Moon Over Chappaquiddick? How Press Let Landing Overshadow Kennedy

NewsBusters | 7/16/2019 | Staff
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For Fast Company’s run-up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the magazine's Charles Fishman dove into the contemporaneous coverage from July 1969, focusing on how the print media reporting on “liberal lion” Sen. Ted Kennedy driving off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island that killed his passenger was overshadowed by the moon landing the next day. But is that a proper excuse for the lack of intensity? “Lost to history: The convergence of the first Moon landing and Chappaquiddick -- Why don’t we remember it that way?”

Media watchdogs have their own explanation of why people don’t necessarily link Chappaquiddick with memories of the moon landing (liberal bias), but Fishman has some interesting research into how that extraordinary event may have affected initial coverage of Kennedy’s car crash and the resulting death by drowning of his companion, Mary Joe Kopechne.

Fishman - Possibility - Slant - Coverage - Kennedy

Fishman didn’t address the possibility of ideological slant factoring into the relatively modest coverage of the Kennedy event, putting it down to a coincidence of timing, with the bigger news of the moon landing shoving aside the incident on Chappaquiddick:

One of the biggest political events of the late 1960s happened right in the middle of the first Moon landing -- and it would have been a lot bigger story if it hadn’t been overshadowed by Apollo 11.

Media - Fishman - Order - Importance - Correct

Unlike many in the media both then and now, Fishman got the order of importance correct, leading with Kopechne’s death and then addressing the alleged damage it did to Ted Kennedy’s political aspirations.

The event has long since become known by the single word “Chappaquiddick,” the harrowing car accident on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, which killed Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old political staffer devoted to Robert Kennedy and which shattered the political career of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was at that point the last...
(Excerpt) Read more at: NewsBusters
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