March 30, 2015

On March 30, 1981, the news media reported on the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan.

The gunman, John W. Hinckley, attacked Reagan as the president walked to his car after addressing a group at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Page one from the California afternoon newspaper, the Santa Cuz Sentinel:


Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post story by Lou Cannon:

“….He was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel through a VIP side door onto T Street. His armored limousine stood waiting for him in a driveway about 12 feet away. Secret Service agents were all around him. It was 2:25 p.m. on a typically rainy spring day, and Reagan, dressed in a blue suit with a white handkerchief in his pocket, seemed happy to be president.

Outside the hotel more than 100 persons had gathered. Reagan, as he always does, paused and waved to the crowd. The crowd cheered. Nearby, the president’s press secretary, James S. Brady, walked toward a staff car, not looking at the president. To Reagan’s left, slightly more than 10 feet away in a roped-off area, members of the crowd mixed with reporters and television cameramen who were photographing the president departure.

Michael Putzel of Associated Press, ready with the inevitable question, called out, ‘Mr. President.’

Abruptly, the scene changed. Shots rang out, six of them in quick succession, with a slight pause between the second shot and the third. The shots appeared to come from the roped-off press area to the left of and below the president. To those close to the rope restraining the press, the shots sounded like firecrackers. A woman screamed. A Secret Service agent yelled, ‘Get back, get back.’ Other agents jumped on a blond man who was facing the president and holding a handgun….”

A few years ago, Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ Chief Washington Correspondent and moderator of Face the Nation, looked back at that day:

In 2014, Louise Schiavone, who worked for AP Radio Network in 1981, prepared a story for NPR called: “Remembering The Day James Brady Was Shot.” Here is an excerpt:

“….At the hospital, an auditorium had been set up for reporters. It was filling rapidly.

No one had the technology we take for granted today — no cellphones, email, Twitter, nothing! Journalists filed from a bank of pay phone booths at the back of the auditorium. We all just had to wait our turn.

And it seemed, by the availability of at least one phone at any given time, reporters were waiting for information they could trust before they filed additional material.

Every so often, a doctor would go to the podium and brief the dozens of reporters who had gathered.

Every briefing began with the questions: Is President Reagan still alive? Is Jim Brady still alive?

Yes, to both….”

On the evening of March 30, 1981, John Chancellor introduced this special report from NBC News:

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