Peter Jennings Dies at 67

Peter JenningsOf the three network news operations, I’ve always found ABC’s to be the most serious and comprehensive: I’ll never forget watching former “World News Tonight” anchor Frank Reynolds during the confusion that immediately followed the failed attempt on President Reagan’s life in 1981. His mix of command and empathetic frustration was a model of adulthood for me; for a long time, well before the advent of cable and the sham of Fox News, I thought television anchors were men of honor, that they earned a level of respect on a nightly basis to which young people should aspire.

I felt that way about Reynolds’s successor, Peter Jennings, as well. He took over the nightly news duties in our household at about the time that I first started understanding that there was a world out there and that it worked in peculiar, foreign ways. My father and I would watch Jennings together every night, and as the anchor revealed the names of new countries and people to me, my father would explain their hidden back stories. I learned a lot from those evenings, both about what lay beyond our shores and what was so important about what lay within them. As a result, I always preferred Jennings’s urbane, worldly delivery over his rival broadcasters, by far. It didn’t bother me much when Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather left their posts earlier this year, but I felt heartbroken and despondent last night when I learned that Peter Jennings had died of lung cancer.

  1. Yep, definitely a tragedy. Did you happen to read the passage in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point which told of the study they did on non-verbal cues by network news anchormen?

    Basically, they showed a statistically significant amount of people videos of Jennings, Brokaw, and Rather speaking about the 1984 presidential candidates… only they turned the sound completely off. Viewers reported zero abnormal preference for the republican or democratic candidate when viewing either the Brokaw or the Rather videos but strangely a high preference for the republican candidate after viewing the Jennings video. Strange, but true!

  2. I’m sure it had something to do with his vaguely European demeanor — obituaries have routinely described him as “urbane,” but let’s face it, that’s just a red state-friendly way of saying his appeal consisted of a friendly kind of quasi-British (okay, Canadian) superiority. I admit that’s a big part of why I liked him. Still, he was a hell of an anchor man.

  3. It is indeed a tragedy. In less than 9 months, the big three have left. I grew up on Jennings in the evening and GMA in the morning. Perhaps Jennings most memorable moment for me was his coverage of 9/11.

    I have to disagree on Fox News. They are just as if not more reliable than many of leading news organizations today. They deserve the right to exist just like CNN, CBS, or ABC. The right of free speech doesn’t extend just to liberal news distributors.

  4. Yup. As a fan of the BBC and how honorable, intelligent and classy their broadcasters tend to be, Jennings was our closest equivalent to that on air. Never cared for Brokaw or Rather, but Jennings will be sorely missed. Always had tremendous respect and admiration for him.

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