Martin Luther King Day

I was reporting the news for WVXU the night following Martin Luther King's assassination. I was a freshman at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and at the time, WVXU was not what it is today. Its signal reached Xavier's dorms, and that was about it. The staff was all students. Rather than NPR and a strong local news organization, the WVXU news -- at least on my Friday night 6 - 11 shift -- went something like this:

I'd stop by the offices of a local, commercial radio station. Back then, no one had personal computers, and it hadn't occurred to anyone to invent the internet. The AP, UPI and other news services sent the news via teletype machines. The stories printed out on paper that scrolled out of the teletype machine into a box or onto the floor. The stories largely repeated every hour, and so the station always had plenty of copy it didn't need. I would scoop up long scrolls of paper and take it back to WVXU's studio in the basement of the Alter Building. There, I would tear out the stories I wanted to read during the station's brief news reports, edit them, and check to make sure I would fill just the right amount of time.

That usually worked fine, except that, being in the basement, the little studio had no windows, and occasionally, on leaving for the night, I would be chagrined to notice that the weather had changed and was very different from what I'd been reporting.

But following Dr. King's assassination, riots broke out in many cities around the country. As the evening went on, I got calls from fellow students, some of whom I knew, asking me for information about where precisely the disturbances in their home towns were. One student in particular was concerned, because the most recent story he had heard recounted a growing disturbance just blocks from his home. Could I tell him anything more? Had the tumult headed up the street toward his family, or down the street, away from them? I felt awful, but couldn't help. That only added to my anger and frustration that some racist nut job had killed an American icon.