Monday, August 8, 2005

Peter Jennings 1938-2005

Last night ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 67 years old.

Peter Jennings was born in Toronto, Ontario on July 29, 1938. He was the son of legendary CBC (Candadian Broadcasting Corporation) anchorman Charles Jennings, who was both CBC's first anchorman and head of their news department. Peter Jennings' broadcasting career began when he was very young. At age 10 he became the host of Peter's Program, a show which featured young talent. As an adult he became a disc jockey at a small radio station in Brockton, Ontario. After covering a train wreck for CBC, he came to the attention of CTV, who hired him as a co-anchor on their late night news. His work at CTV brought him to the attention of ABC (American Broadcasting Company), who hired him 1964.

It was in 1965, at the tender age of 26, that Peter Jennings became the youngest man to ever anchor a nightly network newscast. Unfortunately for ABC, Jennings could not compete with Walter Cronkite at CBS and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at NBC--three of the biggest names in network news history. He was replaced in 1968. Jennings spent ten years reporting from abroad, even establishing the first American television news bureau in the Middle East.

It was in 1978 that Peter Jennings once more found himself behind the anchor desk of a nightly newcast. He became one of a three anchor team (along with Frank Reynolds and Max Robinson) for ABC's World News Tonight. Jennings anchored from London, Reynolds from Washington, and Robinson from Chicago. In 1983 Jennings became the sole anchorman for World News Tonight. In addition to his duties as an anchor, Jennings was also responsible for various primetime specials focusing on various important issues. The specials focused on everything from abortion to Middle East relations to the life of Jesus. Over the years Jennings won 14 Emmys, two Peabody awards, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award, and many others.

I cannot say I have ever been a regular viewer of ABC World News Tonight. Growing up, like many Americans, I watched The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. As an adult I tended to watch either the CBS or NBC evening news. That having been said, I do have to say that I thought Peter Jennings was a fine journalist. What always appealed to me about Jennings is that, when covering any news event, he seemed able to throw out the most obscure facts. It was as if he had to let the viewer know every single detail. He also seemed to me to be a man of integrity. In a time when many news outlets tended to focus on the more sensational or trivial aspects of the news (remember all the coverage devoted to the O. J. Simpson trial?), Jennings seemed insistent on keeping the news focused on more important issues. I find it very sad that he had to die before his time. I could have easily seen Peter Jennings continuing for many more years.


The Talking Mute said...

Thanks for paying a tribute to Peter Jennings. He's one of the best anchorman I have seen on TV.

Terence Towles Canote said...

You're welcome! He was truly one of the greats.