He May Have Been First to Report John Lennon's Death

WLIR's Steve North remembers that night, as does a BBC reporter at the scene 40 years ago
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2020 10:45 AM CST
2 Reporters Remember the Night John Lennon Died
Photos, flowers, and candles are left at Strawberry Fields in New York's Central Park to remember John Lennon on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

On this night exactly 40 years ago, Mark David Chapman fatally shot John Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building where Lennon lived. Two journalists who reported on the events in 1980 reflect on the anniversary:

  • The first? WLIR's Steve North writes in the Daily Beast that he believes he was the first person to publicly broadcast confirmation of Lennon's death. Shortly before midnight, he was speaking to a local police sergeant, who told him, "Well, they're about to make the announcement, so I guess it's OK to tell you now that it was Lennon, and that he's dead." North broadcast the update. "After the words left my mouth, I looked at the stunned face of my colleague, then realized that I literally could not speak," he recalls. "I think in that choking, adrenaline-filled moment, the enormity of what had just happened not only to Lennon, but to every member of my generation, suddenly dawned on me."

  • The BBC: Tom Brook of the BBC was the first British journalist to report live from the scene, and he wrote a recollection, too. "Well, I have to admit it was a huge story, but the logistics of the reporting were actually quite simple," he recalls. "I commandeered a public phone booth in sight of the Dakota, fielding questions from BBC Radio Four Today presenter Brian Redhead, among others, in London, and providing the latest developments." He also interviewed passersby, including a woman who told him she felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. "I think her words summed it up perfectly," Brook notes. Brook was a Lennon fan personally, "so, yes, I was emotionally pained that night, too, but I managed not to choke up on air."
(More John Lennon stories.)

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