Monday, August 08, 2005

A touch of class through thick and thin!

Peter Jennings died today at the age of 67. I won’t write a long eulogy to the former ABC anchor and foreign correspondent, others have written far more eloquently than I could. It is sad to me that we have lost our “big three” anchormen. Sadly their era was over and cable news has replaced them with sensational “crap news.”

Jennings, along with Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather were the faces of American news for the better part of 20 years. I recall watching World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and knowing that I was going to get a perspective of the news that was more Washington, London, Cairo and Tokyo, and less provincial. The world was presented in an eloquent worldly manner. Jennings made us look outside of ourselves to see the larger context of issues. That style of news reporting and presentation really suffered after the end of the Cold War and Americans began to become more domestically oriented and less interested in the world.

As a result of this new focus, cable news, with its focus on sensational, celebrity issues stepped in to control the medium. As a result, people know far less about the world that they live in. We, as Americans, are more interested in O.J. Simpson than we are the situation in the Middle East. We prefer to focus on random murder trials than focus on our government on foreign affairs or even the needed reforms to our Social Security and Medicare systems.

I think this must have been enormously painful for Jennings to watch unfold, though through it all he carried himself with class and poise that made it clear that he was a hold over from a more civilized time. Despite the decline in viewership, in the hours after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks many people flooded back to Jennings and the network news services. And Jennings was there, on the air, reporting the news and reassuring us that we would survive this too. In the years that followed 9/11, Jennings appeared to be bolstered by the renewed interest in the larger world and the Middle East in particular.

But now Peter Jennings is gone. He was the first news anchor of my life, and perhaps it is best that he went out this way. He was unmistakably at the top of his game. In an era of cable and internet news, when everyone thought he was a has-been, Peter Jennings was perhaps the purest source of news to be found. Free of spin, free of personal opinion, free of politics, Jennings was a journalist in the best sense of the word.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is sad to see Peter Jennings go. First and foremost, Jennings was a journalist and he wanted to present the news in an objective and straightforward manner. 24-hour news is a terrible thing for this country. It's now all about filling time, rather than reporting on what is really important. Jennings, and what he represented will be missed.