Monday, August 08, 2005

A trusted voice and a master of his craft

Canadians will be mourning the passing of one of their own this morning, even if he took out US citizenship a few years ago. Peter Jennings passed away on Sunday night at the age of 67, the long time anchor of ABC news had been suffering from lung cancer.

Jennings had that style and credibility that is oh so hard to acquire and may very well have been the last of a breed that put the story over the business of News. His career started on Canadian Television in the sixties but he will be forever remembered as the guardian of the news in the great heyday of network news in the USA.

His dedication to his craft seems to be a trait that has been dumbed down over the years as local, cable news and network news television battle over the same piece of pie. Jennings urbane ways were an island in an increasingly depressing media scene.

With the cable news empires emerging in the last twenty years it seemed impossible that a network news program would be able to hold back the tide of news, but night in and night out Jennings and his crew at ABC put out a professional and balanced view of the days events. (Long before Fox coined the term fair and balanced for Bill O'Reilly, Jennings was practicing the art each night at 6pm!)

Jennings was the comforting and informative face on a world gone amok, able to transcribe for us the developments from far away that seemed unfathomable at times.

I particularly remember his work with the various disasters that would befall the US space program in the last few years and of course his non stop work on 9/11, a time of great anxiety in the States (and Canada as well). His professionalism and dedication to getting the story right placed him far ahead of many in the media herd who prefer to go for the quick fix.

Of the big US networks Peter Jennings was my personal favorite for finding out what really was going on. Perhaps it was his experiences with Canadian TV and his ability to look at the world without that American pre-occupation, for whatever reason a newscast from ABC seemed to at least provide the news of the day without a jingoistic tinge to it, most times.

Eventually Jennings would take out his American citizenship, as he should have one guesses as he quickly had become America's anchor. Yet it wasn't until the passing of his mother two years ago that Jennings made the change, a promise to his mother that he would not relinquish his Canadian status held until after her death.

Even then, most Canadians probably never really accepted the paperwork, he may have been an American in bureaucratic terms, but he'll forever be considered a Canadian.

The tributes have been pouring in through the evening as the giants of news and the journalists on their way up the food chain pay their respects. ABC News put out a press release that sums up quite nicely the tenure of Jennings at ABC, "a colleague, a friend and a leader.", which makes a rather nice and accurate epitaph.

I wonder what Jennings would think of all the attention coming his way, no doubt he would think that's all very nice, but there's some news happening out there, lets go get a story and get it right.

He not only reported on the story, Jennings lived the story. And now he's out on yet another assignment, the foreign correspondent in him will probably welcome the challenge that is now ahead!

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