January 25, 1961 -- John Kennedy's Press Conference
Before Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton there was John Kennedy. No American president has better understood television than these three. By holding the first live press conference in the nation's history, Kennedy showed that boldness and amiability trump all suits in an age of television. In his short time in office Mr. Kennedy also showed (1) that all communication, even presidential communication, must be relational; (2) that the substance of one's remarks is irrelevant if one cannot say it effortlessly; (3) that being "on line" and "in real time" bring a special energy to politics. Prescient as he was, Mr. Kennedy would therefore not have been surprised to learn that 50% of the American people now find television news more believable and more attractive than print news (which attracts a mere quarter of the populace). Mr. Kennedy would also not be surprised at the advent of CNN, the all-news, all-day channel, nor would he be surprised to learn that C-SPAN (Congress' channel) has also become popular in certain quarters. Being the innovator he was, John Kennedy fundamentally changed the temporal dimensions of American politics. Forever more, his successors would be required to perform the presidency during each moment of each day they held office.
- One of the "Ten Dates that tell the story of the U.S. Presidency on Television" from the Museum of Broadcast Communications
Watch the televised innauguration of John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961: