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.