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An unforgettable day, from wire to wire

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.

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