While he was the anchorman for ABC News, I wasn't very familiar with Peter Jennings' work. When it comes to network newscasts, I am a CBS viewer based on tradition (In those B.C. days, - before cable - it was the channel that came in best.) and loyalty (I've always enjoyed the work of the CBS reporters and the news bureau's legacy.) and familial dictates (Whenever I visit home, what Mom wants, Mom watches.).
But I have seen his work on several TV documentaries and specials, including "The Search For Jesus" and "The Century". Also I tuned in throughout the day and marveled as he maintained a marathon of 26 hours while anchoring ABC's coverage of the approaching "Millennium" on December 31st, 1999. (Technically, it was to happen the following year, but that chronological odometer rollover was hard to resist.)
The last time I saw him was in February of this year when he appeared on 'The Daily Show' as that night's guest with Jon Stewart. He was a conversationalist at ease with those surroundings and gave the impression that he would have been comfortable no matter the situation in which he found himself on the other side of an interview.
Desite that air of urbanity which he could project, Peter Jennings wasn't the stuffed shirt that epitomized the anchorman image put forward by such characters as Ted Baxter.
He was one of the trio of news anchors from that second generation of network anchormen; Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather being the others who once held sway over the nation's view of the news. And we won't see their like again, not in these days of 24 hour cable news networks.
I see Peter Jennings as being a combination of the best qualities reminiscent of Edward R. Murrow and Alistair Cooke - he loved doing the reporting himself on a global scale and he brought a bemused attitude as something of an outsider looking in on the stories from the United States.
I'm afraid my poor words aren't doing Mr. Jennings justice now that he has passed on. But for a more comprehensive look at his career, with quotes and reminiscences and photos illustrating his career, visit the TVNewser website:
A fellow named Brian has posted several excellent entries to this blog about Peter Jennings over the last few days.