Home / Peter Jennings, the Prince of Nightly News, has passed

Peter Jennings, the Prince of Nightly News, has passed

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The prince has died. And along with him, the era of the nightly anchor as protective prince. Cronkhite, Huntley, Brinkley, Brokaw, Rather and Jennings were all princes; protective, principaled princes with the power of the air, so to speak, whose role in our society was that of scout, guide, steward, friend, educator, and relayer of the news. They looked out for the average Joe, and Jane, both at home and abroad, and were not simply overpaid readers of the news as handed down from corporate and government PR divisions. They were real journalists, not brand ponchos.

One only hopes the next generation will strive for such high standards, for themselves, and their organizations, and remember for whom their work is most needed and felt. Let Mister Jennings’ life serve as a touchstone…and guiding star.

As I had written on one of my blogs back in April, I felt a certain familial connection with the gentleman. This when we learned that he had lung cancer, only a few months ago. But I am sure many people thought of him as family. And I know my dear old parents will miss the emails he would send out to subscribers. He was a good man, and our hearts are with his family.

According to Wikipedia:
Peter Charles Jennings (July 29, 1938 – August 7, 2005) was the lead news anchor for the ABC network. He had anchored ABC World News Tonight since 1978 and had been the sole anchor since 1983.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jennings was the son of Charles Jennings, a leading journalist for CBC and correspondent for CTV in Canada. Jennings was a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, having become an American citizen on May 30, 2003. He attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute, Carleton University, and Rider College.

Jennings was parodied in Team America: World Police.
In 1999, he anchored the 12-hour ABC series, “The Century”, and ABC’s series for the History Channel, “America’s Time”.
Jennings was a licensed amateur pilot.
Jennings was an uncredited writer for Metallica’s Master of Puppets. (1986)

One wonders…who will replace him as head anchor on the evening news. Koppel would be the best choice, drawing from their existing pool. Or maybe they could gather enough funds to get Mister Cronkite off the island…Short of that, Elizabeth Vargas or George Stephanopoulos are also fine choices, as well as, of course, Charlie Gibson. One might have wondered if his association with the entertainment side of ABC, as manifested in the necessary “Good Morning America”, might not have lessened his gravitas, but his warm and extraordinary handling of Peter’s death surely quelled that concern.

Since his death, there has been an outpouring of remembrance, praise, and what has been called “The Peter Jennings Effect” — which is that many people are saying that Jennings’ death, by lung cancer, has prompted them to give up smoking. A legacy, as Charles Gibson said, that would make Peter happy.

In many ways, Peter was ABC News…as the fact that their homepage today is covered with images, videos, messageboards about him, and much more. This was, in large part, due to his reassuring, never hyperventilative personality, his indefatiguable courage, and the humanity in his writing. Peter’s writing was legendary. If you don’t like the writer, you will not learn from that writer. A writer should be your best friend, not a dictator, a buffoon, or a brat. Well, Peter was that friend.

Listen as friends of Peter Jennings remember him:

Tom Brokaw: “He was the prince of Canada at the age of nine.” “Peter, of the three of us, was our prince. He seemed so timeless. He had such elan and style.”

Ted Koppel: “He always regretted the fact that he had dropped out of school, and he used to travel when he was overseas with whatever else he needed for his trip and always, he had with him one extra suitcase that was filled with books. He was a student for the rest of his life, even though he had dropped out so early.”

Charles Gibson: “Peter could transform confusion into clarity and make exercise appear effortless. He set standards for us, and he never stopped raising them as he helped audiences understand the major events of our time.”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “Peter Jennings was a great man and the consummate professional. His reassuring presence will be missed by all of us.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “I am saddened by the death of my close, personal friend Peter Jennings. To Peter’s wife and family, we offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences. He will be deeply missed. Peter Jennings represented all that was best in journalism and public service. A man of conscience and integrity, his reporting was a guide to all of us who aspire to better the world around us. I learned from him and was inspired by him.”

Outgoing Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his successor, Bob Iger, in a joint statement: “For four decades, Peter set a standard of fairness, intelligence, insightfulness and courage… Peter was one of those unique individuals who was larger than life but never lost the common touch. He possessed an innate understanding of the human condition, which is why his broadcasts had such an air of authenticity. He understood that the world was a complex place and had the extraordinary ability to communicate that complexity to millions of viewers day after day.”

Rush Limbaugh & Co.: (Silence)

Good night, nightly prince! You have improved this world and are now in a better one.

Jennings died of lung cancer at his home on Sunday, August 7, 2005; he is survived by his wife, producer Kayce Freed, and his two children, Elizabeth and Christopher.

– Dave Beckwith (anonyMoses) is Marketing Guru at Parker Web Developers in Charlotte, North Carolina, editor of Trade Street Journal, a writer, blogger, and social software and blog consultant. He once wrote obituaries for The Charlotte Observer.

Ed: JH

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About Nonny

  • When Peter Jennings found out that the young writer Adora is passionate about history, he sent his book”The century for young people” to her in Feb when Adora was on the show. He was a true gentleman. You can watch the touching tribute from Adora’s website.

  • It’s a tragedy and a particularly sad way to die, but “Prince”?

    Let’s not get carried away here with the celebrity hagiography.

    I do think he was pleasant to watch delivering the news and I think he’s an especially remarkable guy for having survived in news journalism after dropping out of high school as a sophomore.

    That is all.

  • Joyce,

    Thanks for that anecdote. A gentleman he was. And in an age of histrionics and ululation, not to mention deception, it was nice to know that his calm repose would be constant.

    I’ll check out that site.

    Kind regards,

  • Bob,

    I don’t think it is proper to pejorate him so soon after his death. His work and travels themselves would be a far better education than most colleges or universities could provide. I know another talented sould who never graduated high school, but went on to get a master’s degree from MIT. Peter went beyond even that. And I would bet that if you, or I, were asked to do the things he had to do, in many dangerous places, we would balk at the idea, if not recoil.

    He was not just a talkinghead, although folks like Hannity and Colmes are.

    If Peter were in England, he would probably be knighted…like a number of his ancestors.

    I was overstating when I called him a prince, but he was one of the best, if not the best, at what he did, in the forum within which he worked.

    Thanks for the comment,

  • Mark Twain wrote, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” One’s earned degrees are not nearly as important or vital as what one accomplishes in life.

    Mr. Jennings brought an air of dignity and grace to the evening news that was not available elsewhere (I could never watch Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather without wincing).

    He was well-spoken, intelligent, and reported the news straightforwardly. Mr. Jennings was a good looking fellow too; he had a certain heroic stature. It was almost like watching James Bond tell us about the world’s events each night.

    Rest in peace, Peter Jennings.

  • And he honed his craft through decades of reporting from spots around the globe and covering major news events. You won’t find a better university than the school of hard knocks that is the reporter’s beat, and being a foreign correspondent routinely delivers some pretty hard knocks. Though he moved up the ranks to become lead anchor and senior editor, Mr. Jennings at heart was first, last, and always a reporter — passionate, resourceful, honest, principled, and graceful. He taught me a lot by example. I’ll miss him.

  • Victor, what an excellent quote…and an excellent summation of Mister Jennings’ presence, which will, no doubt, be hard to replace.

    James Bond. I like that! Will certainly watch tonight…


  • Natalie, thanks for sharing that. My blog beat is not nearly so difficult or dangerous, and I respect you who tread the tough terrains.

    With so many Jeff Gannons out there, it is too easy to forget that real journalists and reporters risk their very lives that we may have information.

    Peter was one of those…and will be missed.

    Kind regards,

  • Peter Jennings was definitely one of them, Mr. Beckwith. Same with folks like the late David Bloom and countless others on the foreign beat or the general assignment desk of local daily and weekly newspapers. Journalism has a bruised reputation thanks to some thoughtless, irresponsible, lazy few bad apples. It’s a shame, because there are practitioners all over the world — few of whom ever rise to the levels Mr. Jennings did — who are dedicated, ethical, and responsible reporters and editors. The late ABC anchor, given his exalted position, served as a visible reminder for many of us in the trenches that there is honor in our profession. I hope his work and legacy remind everyone else of that too.

  • I tend to agree that ‘prince’ might be putting it a bit strong, but Peter Jennings was a pro and a mainstay in the world of journalism. I am saddened to hear of his passing.

  • How am I pejorating him?

    By pointing out that he did well for himself despite a lack of formal education? It’s admirable. But he never went back and got those degrees from MIT like your friend did. Certainly, he wasn’t a dumb guy or he wouldn’t have overcome the normal barriers for employment in journalism.

    Yes, he looked like Roger Moore, as you’ll hear thousands of times over the next couple of days.

    For what it’s worth, I probably would still be watching him over the robotic, cold Brian Williams or the decrepit Bob Scheiffer if he were alive today, although Elizabeth Vargas is certainly better to look at (ask Joe Dimaggio, who spent one of his last days on Earth calling her up for a date because he had such a boner for watching her read the news on TV). For that matter, I always preferred Jennings to the emotional and folksy Dan Rather as well. Brokaw was affected, stiff, and austere, but he was a willful voice of adult authority much the same way the traditional big names of journalism were. Jennings was softer, smoother and more genial, a genteel politician in his own right at the anchor’s desk.

    Yes, he was one of the best at what he did.

    That is all.

  • My apologies, Bob. As I often do, I misread your message. I wish I could claim dyslexia, but can only claim ignorance.

    Don’t hate me! 🙂

    All the best,

  • Jennifer R.


  • What a wonderful tribute, Jennifer. Thanks you! And may you be blessed for your big heart!


  • Jennifer R.,

    What is your IQ?

    And do you really think Peter Jennings will spend time with you in heaven (assuming he’s even there, of course)? I’m sure he’ll go to some roped-off area to hang out with the other few celebrities who somehow managed to make it into eternal paradise without selling their souls.

    That is all.

  • The ABC tribute to him was pretty good, although it did make him seem somewhat like a passionate simp (Curious George thinks he’s a foreign scholar!). I got a little tired of hearing “Peter was curious about everything” all the time. We get the point, he’s smarter than his education would indicate.

    I thought the best moment was when he confronted that Little League Dad about his child abuse on camera.

    That is all.

  • Dan

    Do you know how to get acopy of the ABC tribute to Peter jennings on Aug 10?