ABC's of Peter Jennings-- American; Born Canadian.
Critics and fans of Peter
Jennings share great sadness at his death. One news source who knew him well, Brit
Hume, described him as an honorable man who did not harbor grudges against, or maintain harsh
feelings towards, those with whom he strenuously disagreed.
One protracted "event" and two newsmen did more to shape ABC News in the last twenty-five
years than anything and anyone else: The Iranians holding American diplomats hostage
during latter part of Jimmy Carter's presidency, which led to ABC News providing nightly updates
called "America Held Hostage" (which later became "Nightline"), was the
protracted "event." Ted Koppel (born in Britain) and Peter Jennings (born in Canada)
were the two newsmen. That two such immigrants rose to the top in America is more than a
testimonial to their talents-- it's also a testimonial to part of what's great about America.
"America Held Hostage" gave the then-struggling ABC News a foothold on the landscape of
viewer loyalty. When the crisis ended, ABC News' astute decision to continue a nightly
news-update program in the form of "Nightline" with Ted Koppel gave ABC News a
cachet lacked by the other two broadcast-news networks. In hosting "Nightline,"
Koppel began, and for many years continued, providing a more balanced presentation of opposing views
of current issues in the news than was being done by CBS or NBC. This cachet helped ABC
attract David Brinkley as the host for a revamped Sunday news program that became dominant and
remained so for several years after Brinkley's departure. Additionally, ABC News' periodic
presentation of "town hall" programs (Viewpoint) inviting viewers to criticize ABC
News exemplified a willingness to engage in introspection not comparably manifested by CBS or NBC at
In becoming news anchor for ABC News, Jennings stood on the shoulders of the balanced-perspective
cachet established by Koppel in the process of making Nightline an American institution for
news junkies. The balanced-presentation-of-issues goal I perceived Koppel and
Jennings to have then been seeking to attain led me to prefer ABC News over the news at CBS or
NBC. However, as time wore on, Jennings (and later even Koppel) became comfortable
enough with the status of ABC News as an established player in the broadcast-news game to begin
backsliding into what many perceive (correctly, in my opinion) as the New York Times mindset,
from which their balanced-presentation goals had initially distinguished them.
Paradoxically, Fox News today stands on the shoulders of the cachet conferred on
"balanced" presentation of opposing views by both Koppel and Jennings when they were at
their best. Also paradoxically, Fox News also stands on the shoulders of Larry King, who,
despite his limitations, provided another forum which news junkies initially found to be an
emulation (pale though it was) of what they liked about "Nightline" -- i.e.,
a current-events program that afforded of a variety of opposing views to be expressed in an unfiltered
Thus, even the most severe critics of the post-backslide Peter Jennings must in fairness concede,
and should thank him for, an important role he played in proving the breadth and depth of the market
for outlets for perspectives on the news beyond the cosmopolitan provinciality of the New York
Times, which Jennings, Koppel, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and then MSNBC ultimately felt compelled to
emulate. Despite his flaws (surely no greater than, and likely far lesser than, my own),
he played a vital, positive role in the gradual evolution of the broader balance available in the
news media today.
Jennings-- Canadian Yankee.
passing of Jennings this morn
leaves critics and backers to mourn
this naturalized Yank
who rose through our ranks
like many in Canada born.
Koppel and Jennings who raised
the ABC News from its grave
to rise to a challenge
for news less unbalanced--
a pathway they both helped to pave.
both may have back-slid into
the Gray Lady's loyal me-toos,
it can't be denied
at first they defied
conventions of other me-toos.
they first rose to the challenge
of making the news less unbalanced,
a pathway they paved
for sources today
to counter Gray Lady's imbalance.
heartfelt condolence we're sending
to friends and the family of Jennings,
a transplanted Yank
who rose in our ranks
and strived to view fences for mending.
Despite his perception of the many flaws in America, he
also often manifested great insight into America's greatness. Indeed, I remember a
few years ago when this native Canadian so proudly announced his becoming an American
citizen. I'm saddened by his passing and extend my condolences to his family.
Wrenn, Editor at PoliSat.Com.
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ABC's of Peter Jennings.
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