RIP, Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings, 1938-2005

Only four months after announcing that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, journalist Peter Jennings lost his battle with the disease Aug. 7. The ABC News veteran, who had been with the network as correspondent, editor, and evening-news anchor since 1964, died at his home in New York City. Reportedly he was surrounded by his family and slipped away peacefully and without pain.

From ABC News:

As one of America’s most distinguished journalists, Jennings reported many of the pivotal events that have shaped our world. He was in Berlin in the 1960s when the Berlin Wall was going up, and there in the ’90s when it came down. He covered the civil rights movement in the southern United States during the 1960s, and the struggle for equality in South Africa during the 1970s and ’80s. He was there when the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, and on the other side of the world when South Africans voted for the first time. He has worked in every European nation that once was behind the Iron Curtain. He was there when the independent political movement Solidarity was born in a Polish shipyard, and again when Poland’s communist leaders were forced from power. And he was in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and throughout the Soviet Union to record first the repression of communism and then its demise. He was one of the first reporters to go to Vietnam in the 1960s, and went back to the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1980s to remind Americans that, unless they did something, the terror would return.

On Dec. 31, 1999, Jennings anchored ABC’s Peabody-award winning coverage of Millennium Eve, “ABC 2000.” Some 175 million Americans watched the telecast, making it the biggest live global television event ever. “The day belonged to ABC News,” wrote The Washington Post, “with Peter Jennings doing a nearly superhuman job of anchoring.” Jennings was the only anchor to appear live for 25 consecutive hours.

Jennings also led ABC’s coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and America’s subsequent war on terrorism. He anchored more than 60 hours that week during the network’s longest continuous period of news coverage, and was widely praised for providing a reassuring voice during the time of crisis. TV Guide called him “the center of gravity,” while the Washington Post wrote, “Jennings, in his shirt sleeves, did a Herculean job of coverage.” The coverage earned ABC News Peabody and duPont awards. …

Jennings was honored with many awards for news reporting, including 16 Emmys, two George Foster Peabody Awards, several Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards and several Overseas Press Club Awards. Most recently, “World News Tonight” was recognized with two consecutive Edward R. Murrow awards for best newscast, based on field reporting done by Jennings on the California wildfires and the transfer of power in Iraq.

Jennings, who took over the ABC anchor desk in 1983, was born in Canada and later became a US citizen. Whatever his nationality, whatever his personal politics, his dedication to his craft, his professional demeanor, and thorough, solid reporting served as an inspiration to this journalist and to many others. He will be missed.

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