'The Kind of Guy You've Always Wanted to Be'

J$P Instant Transcripts! Reflections on the life of Peter Jennings from Hal Bruno, Tom Jarriel, Chris Wallace, Tim O'Brien, Brit Hume.

From Fox and Friends, August 8 2005:

CHRIS WALLACE [FOX NEWS]: The thing that I remember most about Peter, to keep it real: he was a difficult guy, a very demanding guy. And I remember, just after I came to ABC in 1989 from NBC, we ended up taking a flight from New York to Washington together. And he was almost hazing me: the new kid joining his club. And one of the things I remember he talked about was preparation. You couldn't ever get enough preparation for whatever story you were working on. And as time went on, I along with almost everybody who ever watched him, marveled at his extraordinary ability to ad-lib. And I guess the highlight of that, of course, was that terrible day for all of us, 9/11, when he was on the air for about 24 hours with all of this information flooding in from around the world. He knew the story, whether it was foreign policy, whether it was the Arab world and extremism, whether it was domestic politics--he knew it all so well that he could ad-lib, because he wasn't trying to recite or remember something he'd read in a briefing book. He'd lived it, he reported it....He was plucked out of, from our point of view in America, complete obscurity in his 20s to become the anchor of ABC News, which was the fourth network in a three network world back in the 60s. And in his 20s to be the anchor of ABC News, and as a Canadian, which you wonder about that choice, he didn't do very well at it....He went off to the Middle East and then around the world and became a foreign correspondent, and basically did the preparation that most people do before they become an anchor. And knew international relations and the world better than anyone. By the time he came back to the anchor chair in the 80s, he was thoroughly and utterly prepared for it. I suspect that he had learned his lesson from that experience in the 60s.

WALLACE: He could be pretty gruff and pretty demanding as an anchor--one of the things you always feared was when you got a call shortly before the broadcast at 5:30 and he'd say, I've got a couple of questions for you. And quite frankly, he thought he knew, and oftentimes he did know, your story better than you did. And he had no hesitation about letting you know it. But whenever the subject came particularly to his children, there was a soft spot that you can see....He was, and I know people who criticized him felt that he was too Arab. I thought that it was more a corrective, that he felt that the Israelis had a lot of sponsors, and he would speak for the voice of the Palestinians. I'm sorry of the occasion, but I'm honored to be a part of any broadcast about Peter Jennings.

From Fox News Live:

TOM JARRIEL [FORMER ABC NEWSMAN]: A very fair, articulate, brilliant, low-key, decent man has left the scene of one of the most powerful jobs in the news.... Peter was picked as a boy anchorman, hoping that Huntley-Brinkley and Cronkite, the competition, would age, and he would be there as a mature anchorman. He of course came with virtually no experience, and after a couple of years it was clear the others were there to stay. He took an assignment in Lebanon, a rather obscure post, where he began working at his skills, which would be a journalist. He really didn't have much in the way of credentials when he came to ABC.... To his credit he became a great journalist, and the way he learned to report on the Middle East, during the hostage crisis at Munich during the Olympics, put him head and shoulders above all other competitors, and really was the beginning of a very brilliant and long-lasting career.

TIM O'BRIEN [FOX NEWS]: He never forgot about those early experiences. I went with him to a baseball game, and on the way home he said one of his fears was that he might read in the newspapers that he'd been replaced. And this was at a time when he was just soaring in the early 90s--when he was the top-ranked anchorman. If anybody at ABC News was golden, it was Peter Jennings.... A class act throughout. He always was, in everything he did. He brought integrity and real class. The industry lost not just a consummate professional but a truly good guy.

HAL BRUNO [FORMER ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR]: He was a very, very thoughtful, a very kind, a very loving person. And even after I retired, like with many people, he stayed in close touch, and we spoke to each other often. It was a tradition that we always talked to each other on election day. Peter was, first of all, a superb reporter. He was a world class journalist, but people didn't realize that being a reporter was the most fun for Peter in his career. And he could never stop being a reporter. We traveled together covering politics. Peter never lacked for questions to ask people, and he never hesitated to plunge in and play the role of a reporter, rather than being just an anchorman. And he had a way with people, that they opened up to him. He never got tired of people coming up and talking to him. Even when we weren't working, we were off skiing with our families one time in Colorado. And when we walked into the lodge and off came the goggles, people recognized Peter of course. And they started coming up...and Peter was just as gracious as could be. He always was afraid that he'd be caught in a bubble, that because he was the anchor he would lose touch with people. And when we'd be out covering politics, Peter always made sure that time was set aside so he could get out and just wander around talking to people.

BRUNO: He was absolutely fascinated with all kinds of things, many of which didn't have anything to do with the work we were doing. But he had this roving, curious mind. When he first became anchor he was very concerned about his Canadian accent, even though it's very close to an American accent, still there are differences. And he was very worried about how he'd pronounce certain words.... He had been out of the country for about 7 years when he became the anchorman. He and I went out on a trip just so he could get caught up and refreshed on American politics. And I didn't know him very well at that time. What impressed me on that trip through Iowa and then over into New Hampshire was how quick he learned, and how he never got tired of filling up that notebook. The notebook was always working. And it would be 11 o'clock at night and I'd say OK time to quit. No, there's one more place we should go on to....He never wanted to stop reporting.

BRIT HUME [FOX NEWS]: We knew it was bad in April, that his chances were poor. Still, it seems stunning that he's gone. The reason for that I think is Peter: 67 years old but you'd never known that, not from the way he looked, not by the way he lived his life. He had a spectacular wife, Casey, who's really dazzling and herself a formidable tv producer...both were terrific skiers and Peter's a natural athlete. Peter's the kind of guy you've always wanted to be: immensely talented at his craft, great athlete, great looking, terrific kids--Chris and Lizzie--led this storybook life, traveled all over the world, serious about news, endlessly curious. He was an amazing guy, and a giant in our business....I do remember the experience of his calling you with questions. Because you had better know the answers....He was relentlessly curious about everything. And sometimes the mere fact of the questions would tell you that there's a big hole in your piece that needed to be dealt with. So when he called it was a moment of apprehension to be sure, but he knew what he was doing.

HUME: At least within the business, those of us who knew him and saw his work and could compare it to the work of others, I think he was the great, talented anchorman of his time. As I look at the network news anchormen that we've known over the years, and many of them have been very good indeed, I think he was the most gifted. And when it came to a breaking news story, live on the air where you have to hold the air for hours on end, manage to be interesting and keep the flow going, and keep those viewers posted on what's going on so people just tuning in would be abreast of things--nobody ever did it better, nobody ever did it more smoothly or with polish or assurance, and when it came to the world, more knowledge. I well remember when I was standing out on the White House lawn one day during the first Gulf War, and Peter was discussing some events with a correspondent who was in or around Baghdad. Peter knew the streets of Baghdad. He knew the town; he knew it well. And in a situation like that, he was incomparable. There was no one who had his knowledge of the world. He was the best, and the most gifted. And in many ways the most attractive, handsome--he looked like Roger Moore. You sort of picture Peter in all these places all over the world, these mysterious, exotic locations, this tremendously polished and urbane Peter Jennings arriving on the scene not unlike James Bond to do his work. He was something.

See also here.

posted: Mon - August 8, 2005 at 11:29 AM       j$p  send