Jennings, RIP

John blueoval at 1SMARTISP.NET
Mon Aug 8 05:41:48 MDT 2005

[It's ironic, somewhat, that Jennings should die on my birthday. 
19 years ago, I wrote him several fan letters and asked for advice 
on how to further my broadcast career. He never answered me or 
acknowledged receipt of those letters. - JAQ]

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings dies at 67
Canadian-born broadcaster announced he had lung cancer in April

• Peter Jennings dies
Aug. 7: ABC News anchor Peter Jennings has died of lung cancer. He 
was 67.
NBC News

The Associated Press
Updated: 1:15 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2005
NEW YORK - Peter Jennings, the suave, Canadian-born broadcaster 
who delivered the news to Americans each night in five separate 
decades, died Sunday. He was 67.

Jennings, who announced in April that he had lung cancer, died at 
his New York home, ABC News President David Westin said late 

“Peter has been our colleague, our friend, and our leader in so 
many ways. None of us will be the same without him,” Westin said.

Story continues below ↓


With Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, Jennings was part of a triumvirate 
that dominated network news for more than two decades, through the 
birth of cable news and the Internet. His smooth delivery and 
years of international reporting experience made him particularly 
popular among urban dwellers.

Jennings dominated the ratings from the late 1980s to the 
mid-’90s, when Brokaw surpassed him. He remained a Canadian until 
2003, when he became a U.S. citizen, saying it had nothing to do 
with his politics — he did it for his family.

“He was a warm and loving and surprisingly sentimental man,” said 
Ted Koppel, a longtime friend and fellow anchor.

Jennings deeply regretted not finishing school, and he would have 
wanted that lesson passed along, Koppel said. He made up for it by 
becoming a student of the world, studying cultures and their 
people for the rest of his life.

“No one could ad lib like Peter,” said Barbara Walters. “Sometimes 
he drove me crazy because he knew so many details.

“He just died much too young.”

Jennings was the face of ABC News whenever a big story broke. He 
logged more than 60 hours on the air during the week of the Sept. 
11, 2001, terrorist attacks, offering a soothing sense of 
continuity during a troubled time.

“There are a lot of people who think our job is to reassure the 
public every night that their home, their community and their 
nation is safe,” he told author Jeff Alan. “I don’t subscribe to 
that at all. I subscribe to leaving people with essentially — 
sorry it’s a cliche — a rough draft of history. Some days it’s 
reassuring, some days it’s absolutely destructive.”

Jennings’ announcement four months ago that the longtime smoker 
would begin treatment for lung cancer came as a shock.

“I will continue to do the broadcast,” he said, his voice husky, 
in a taped message that night. “On good days, my voice will not 
always be like this.”

But although Jennings occasionally came to the office between 
chemotherapy treatments, he never again appeared on the air.

“He knew that it was an uphill struggle. But he faced it with 
realism, courage, and a firm hope that he would be one of the 
fortunate ones,” Westin said. “In the end, he was not.”

Broadcasting was the family business for Jennings. His father, 
Charles Jennings, was the first person to anchor a nightly 
national news program in Canada and later became head of the 
Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s news division. A picture of his 
father was displayed prominently in Jennings’ office off ABC’s 

Charles Jennings’ son had a Saturday morning radio show in Ottawa 
at age 9. Jennings never completed high school or college, and 
began his career as a news reporter at a radio station in 
Brockton, Ontario. He quickly earned an anchor job at Canadian 

Sent south to cover the Democratic national convention in 1964, 
the handsome, dashing correspondent was noticed by ABC’s news 
president. Jennings was offered a reporting job and left Canada 
for New York.

As the third-place news network, ABC figured its only chance was 
to go after young viewers. Jennings was picked to anchor the 
evening news and debuted on Feb. 1, 1965. He was 26.

“It was a little ridiculous when you think about it,” Jennings 
told author Barbara Matusow. “A twenty-six-year-old trying to 
compete with Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley. I was simply 

Savaged by the critics
Critics savaged him as a pretty face unfit for the promotion. 
Using the Canadian pronunciations for some words and once 
misidentifying the Marine Corps’ anthem as “Anchors Aweigh” didn’t 
help his reputation. The experiment ended three years later.

He later described the humbling experience as an opportunity, 
“because I was obliged to figure out who I was and what I really 
wanted to be.”

Assigned as a foreign correspondent, Jennings thrived. He 
established an ABC News bureau in Beirut, and became an expert on 
the Middle East. He won a Peabody Award for a 1974 profile of 
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

On the scene at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Jennings was 
perfectly placed to cover the hostage-taking of Israeli athletes 
by an Arab terrorist group. He and a crew hid in the athletes’ 
quarters for a close-in view of the drama.

Jennings returned to the evening news a decade after his 
unceremonious departure. In 1978, ABC renamed its broadcast “World 
News Tonight,” and instituted a three-person anchor team: Frank 
Reynolds based in Washington, Max Robinson from Chicago and 
Jennings, by then ABC’s chief foreign correspondent, from London.

Following Reynolds’ death from cancer, ABC abandoned the 
multi-anchor format and Jennings became sole anchor on Sept. 5, 

CONTINUED: A decade at the top
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