Peter Charles Jennings (29 July 1938 – 7 August 2005) was a Canadian-American journalist, a news anchor for the ABC network beginning in 1978 and the sole anchor for World News Tonight from 1983 through April 2005.
- Good evening. We begin tonight...
- His standard lead in line as ABC News anchor.
- 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. 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.
- Interview in Anchoring America: The Changing Face of Network News (2003) by Jeff Alan
- There's a whole industry of conservatives saying, "Ah, it's those damn liberals," and a whole group of liberals saying, "It's all those damn conservatives"... If you tailor your news viewing, as some people are now doing, so that you only get one point of view, well of course you're going to think somebody else has got a different point of view, and it may be wrong.
- Interview for KETV NewsWatch 7 as quoted at The Omaha Channel (19 October 2004)
- "I'm a little concerned about this notion everybody wants us to be objective," Jennings said.
Jennings said that everyone — even journalists — have points of view through which they filter their perception of the news. It could be race, sex or income. But, he said, reporters are ideally trained to be as objective as possible.
"And when we don't think we can be fully objective, to be fair."
- Interview for KETV NewsWatch 7 as quoted in article at The Omaha Channel (19 October 2004)
- There will be good days and bad, which means that some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky!
- Memo to his staff announcing that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. (April 2005)
- I have never spent a day in my adult life where I didn't learn something, and if there is a born-again quality to me, that's it.
- Interview in Saturday Evening Post, quoted by USA Today (7 August 2005)
Criticism "goes with the territory"
"Jennings: Criticism 'goes with the territory'", USA Today (8 September 2003)
- I don't think anybody who looks carefully at us thinks that we are a left-wing or a right-wing organization.
- We have been criticized, a little bit to my surprise, by people who think I was not enough pro-war. That is simply not the way I think of this role. This role is designed to question the behavior of government officials on behalf of the public. I think people who have done this and all jobs in journalism have believed that.
- Are we out of step with the administration because we do not comport completely to their political point of view?... So they criticize us for it. It goes with the territory, and if we get a groundswell we begin to look at ourselves.
- I don't think the public realizes how much soul-searching goes on in news organizations about what is the right thing to do.
Larry King Interview (8 September 2003)
- Seems like yesterday; seems like forever—all at the same time. It's sort of, how do you measure it? Do you measure the fact that I'm 20 years older? No. I think I measure it by the events. You know, I came just as the Cold War was coming to an end. When you think about the events that we've been through, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to, I guess you'd say, 9/11 being the culmination at the end of that — of that scope — what extraordinary changes there have been.
- Response to question on what it feels like to have been the ABC News Anchorman for 20 years.
- When I came to the states in the mid 1960s — 1964, 1964 — I didn't think I'd be here maybe a couple years, going to have a great experience in the United States and then go back to Canada. Well, here we are 40 years later.
- On 9/11, those of us who do the jobs that I do, flew without a net for hour and hour and hour after end. And then you hope and pray that you've had the experience to be up to it. Because then you're editor, analyst, reporter, correspondent, ringmaster, the whole thing.
- The truth of the matter is — and I'm always a bit reluctant to say this because people think you're a bit unfeeling. The truth of this, on 9/11, people who — myself and others — were so unbelievably focused on what was happening that we were, for many, many hours, I think, spared the agony of loss.
- I was so focused on all of that, that it took me many hours, until my kids called, ironically. My kids both called and just left a little message that they were OK. And I turned around and went — Oh, man that really hit me like a ton of bricks — But most of the time we were spared that agony for the time being.
- I think no matter what we cover, people tend to see what we cover through their own particular political or personal prisms. I always ask people to be specific what they're talking about. You can't cover the Middle East — you can't cover American politics — you can't cover America these days without finding people in one place or another taking exception to what we do. I think it goes with the territory. Keeps me, at least I hope, mindful, always that there's at least one other opinion and sometimes a dozen other opinions. And they all bear accounting for. But not everybody is right you know because somebody says, "well you did X", and you say "well, maybe X is right in some cases".
- My dad was part of the pioneers of public broadcasting in Canada. And he always told me the most important thing you can be in your career is fair. So we all start to see a box and hope that we see the box in the same way. But you recognize in time that people see the box or they see traffic accidents in entirely different ways. So you train yourself over the years to try and give accounting to the variety... and come to some decent place in the middle. But I'm not a slave to objectivity. I'm never quite sure what it means. And it means different things to different people.
- In response to the question "Is it impossible to be totally objective?"
- I think sometimes in the establishment that there are a lot of people in America who resent the establishment, who resent the elite universities, who resent the large corporations and with some good reason this year — as we discovered — and who feel and who have felt prior to the advent of this sort of a great involvement of talk radio that they haven't had place to debate or even vent. And so, is Rush a deeply serious analyst and commentator? In some respects. Is he a showman as well? I think the answer is yes. But I'd never argue that he doesn't have place on the menu.
Final ABC broadcast (5 April 2005)
- Finally this evening, a brief note about change. Some of you have noticed in the last several days that I was not covering the Pope. While my colleagues at ABC did a superb job, I did think a few times I was missing out. However, as some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago, and I was weak and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reason, the news does slow you down a bit. I have been reminding my colleagues today who've all been incredibly supportive that almost 10,000,000 Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them. And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis. I will continue to do the broadcast; on good days my voice will not always be like this. Certainly it's been a long time, and I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn't value deeply the audience's loyalty should be in another line of work. To be perfectly honest I'm a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people, that's not intended as false modesty, but even I was taken aback by how far and how fast news travels. Finally, I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, "O.K., Doc, when does the hair go?" At any rate, that's it for now on World News Tonight. Have a good evening. I'm Peter Jennings. Thanks, and good night.
- I've always been very zealous about not invading other people's private spaces.
- I'm fascinated by everything. There's just too much going on in too many places that I just daren't miss.
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- [President Bush should] quit hiding behind the Secret Service, come out and face the nation and explain his failure to protect the country.
- Attributed as an on-air remark (11 September 2001), but fabricated by Lt. Gen. Billy M. Thomas (ret). Discussed and later denied by radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Quotes of others about Jennings
- It was, in the end, the kind of blow that the calm, seasoned, assuring voice had always softened for us, always relieved of its sharp edges and its tragedy -- the kind of mitigation with which the years abroad had gifted him. But the perseverance of 57 years in front of a microphone could not restore the calm, seasoned, assuring voice. There was now, it seemed, no one to soften and relieve this shock ... The calm, seasoned, assuring voice has been stilled. And for now, at least, there are no others.
- Keith Olbermann, MSNBC
- He seems to me like the last, best example of a tradition that had already started to vanish long before his death — the tradition of Martha Gellhorn and Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite, people who went and found out what was really happening before they started to talk about it.
- John Simpson, BBC world affairs editor
- Inside that tall, handsome, elegant and eloquent exterior — inside that beat the heart of a fierce, but principled competitor... The last person you wanted to see coming on a story, particularly a big story, was Peter Jennings. … How much did I keep an eye on him? Constantly. All the time.
- Dan Rather, former CBS anchor
- Peter especially, I think, summarized for all of us the feelings that Dan and I have—the three of us have—when people often ask, "Are you friends?" And Peter said, "Yes, we are friends because we don't see each other that often."... And then he went on to say that we've all made each other better.
- Tom Brokaw, former NBC anchor
- The late Peter Jennings seemed to have been born in a trench coat in an exotic locale.
- No one could ad lib like Peter... You would think that it was all scripted, he was so poetic, but it wasn't.
- Barbara Walters, ABC News
- He really did make us raise our sights.
- Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America co-anchor
- I didn't always agree with Peter but I deeply admired his hard work, experience and integrity.
When I first made the move from print to broadcast journalism, I remember watching him for long periods of time — simply to glean some tips.
- He was so natural; so good live... He knew how to talk to everybody.
- Peter Mansbridge, CBC-TV
- Peter Jennings will be remembered as one of America’s most inspirational and distinguished journalists of our times. Peter Jennings covered many of the most defining moments in the world’s post-war history: he witnessed the Berlin Wall coming up in the 1960s and down in 1989, the struggle for equality in South Africa, the Gulf War and most recently, the September 2001 terrorists attacks.
- Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada
- A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news. He became a part of the life of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed.
- George W. Bush, US President
- I will always remember his insight, his ability to explain the most complicated issues in the clearest form, and his grace and style. He was a tough interviewer but he was always fair... Peter Jennings put his own brand on broadcast journalism. He will be greatly missed.
- John Kerry, US Senator
- Peter Jennings was a gentleman. Even when asking the tough, insightful questions, he did so in a gentlemanly fashion. He was able to find the weakness in an argument and point it out, but in a constructive way, not in a "gotcha" way... On Sept. 11, Peter's journalistic ability, coupled with his humanity, informed and helped comfort us. Like all those watching that day, he too was in pain over the destruction wreaked on his beloved city, but he soldiered on and did so with compassion and eloquence. While that clear, calm voice is silent now, the memory of his articulate and thoughtful presence will live on in our hearts forever.
- Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City
- 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.
- Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
- Peter Jennings was a great man and the consummate professional. His reassuring presence will be missed by all of us.
- Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State
- The MRC's archive is packed with documentation of liberal bias from Peter Jennings, who was frequently cited in CyberAlert, but on this day after his passing we'll focus on how a couple of times he acknowledged the media's liberal tilt.
- ABC News profile
- CBC News Indepth: Peter Jennings
- One of the best (BBC News editorial) Jennings as editor
- Museum of Broadcast Communications
- Video of cancer announcement on 5 April 2005, his last broadcast (WMV Format) - (Quicktime format)
- Peter Jennings - In Depth: NYC Out of the ashes (BBC) (17 December 2001)
- Transcript of Interview on Larry King Live (CNN)
- "Peter Jennings on the Iraq War" at commondreams.org
- "Two Most Honest People In News? Peter Jennings and Roger Ailes - According to O'Reilly" at Newshounds.us
- "A Few Times Peter Jennings Acknowledged Media Bias" at MRC.org (Media Research Center)