Peter Jennings, journalist, Died at 67

  Media, Writers

Peter Charles Archibald Ewart Jennings died on August 7, 2005 at the age of 67, was a Canadian-American journalist and news anchor.

Born on July 29, 1938, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; he and his younger sister Sarah were children of Elizabeth (Osborne) and Charles Jennings, a prominent radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(CBC).

Peter Jennings started his broadcasting career at the age of nine, hosting Peter’s People, a half-hour, Saturday morning, CBC Radio show for kids.

Although Jennings dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps in broadcasting, his first job was as a bank teller for the Royal Bank of Canada.

He had hoped that the company would assign him to its Havana branch; instead, it located him to the small town of Prescott, Ontario, before transferring him to its nearby Brockville branch.

During this time, he explored acting by appearing in several amateur musical productions with the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society, including Damn Yankees and South Pacific.

Jennings started reporting for ABC at its New York news bureau. At the time, ABC lagged behind the more established news divisions of NBC and CBS, and the network was trying to attract younger viewers.

On February 1, 1965, ABC plucked the fresh-faced Canadian from the field and placed him at the anchor desk of Peter Jennings with the News, then a 15-minute nightly newscast. He replaced Ron Cochran, a fellow Canadian.

At 26, Jennings was, and remains, the youngest-ever U.S. network news anchor. “ABC was in bad shape at the time,” Jennings said. “They were willing to try anything, and, to demonstrate the point, they tried me.”

In 1972, Jennings covered his first major breaking news story, the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes by Black September.

His live reporting, which drew on the expertise he had acquired in the Middle East, provided context for Americans who were unfamiliar with the Palestinian group.

By hiding with his camera crew close to the athletic compound where the Israeli athletes were being held hostage, Jennings was able to provide ABC with clear video of the masked hostage-takers.

He would later be criticized for insisting on using the terms “guerillas” and “commandos” instead of “terrorists” to describe the members of Black September.

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 became a newsman at the age of 9, hosting a boyhood radio show. He dropped out of high school to take a full-time radio reporting job.

Jennings is survived by his wife, his two children, Elizabeth, 25, and Christopher, 23, and his sister, Sarah Jennings.