Peter Jennings, ABC News Anchor, Chief Editor, and a great American, has died from Lung Cancer at age 67. For nearly all of my aware life since middle school Jennings has been my anchor of record on television. For me there was a direct line between Walter Cronkite, the voice of record from the 60s and 70s, to Jennings. I am immensely sad to hear of his passing.
Peter Jennings became a citizen of the country he loved just two years ago. But it seemed he knew us better than anyone. He was born a Canadian and took advantage of that slight disconnect to study us as an ethnographer would. He moved to live among us and report the news, grew to love us, led us through many dark nights and but also provided cheerful highs. Eventually he became us.
In April when Peter Jennings announced he would be reducing his work load to fight Lung Cancer, you could sense that it was serious. Jennings, a past smoker, had faced longtime health problems before and had hoped to return to the Anchor desk. He never did.
This weekend, when rumors started swirling around the blogosphere that ABC affiliates had been notified that Peter Jennings was at death’s door, I refused to post anything about it. Perhaps both out of respect for the man and his family, and out of disbelief. I thought of the fight Jennings put up to keep ABC News in New York City when Michael Eisner wanted to move the whole operation to Los Angeles. I thought of the masterful job Jennings did when covering an event as full of pagentry as the marriage of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles of Wales as a London correspondant to the revelations of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism in the West.
Jennings was at the top of his game when generaling from behing the Anchor Desk. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I will miss him. America will miss him.
For more, the New York Times, paper of record for the city that Jennings lived in and loved, has a very nice article this morning. ABC News, of course, has a detailed collection of stories. Also see CNN.