Friday, August 12, 2005

A Belated Tribute to Peter Jennings ...

I realize I am late getting to this, but I've been away for a couple of weeks, traveling across the country to a family reunion. One of the perq's to being on the road like that was rarely being in close proximity to a computer ... hence the dearth of recent postings to ArchaeoTexture.

But, getting back to Peter Jennings, who
died Sunday from lung cancer ... the web has been filled with postings, and the blogosphere has been no exception. Those postings have run pretty much the full range of opinion ... and really, is that any surprise?

For example, Keith Oberman at
Bloggerman, says, "the calm, seasoned, assuring voice has been stilled," describing Jennings' career as, "a half century of perseverance, growth; even redemption ... he was a man of whom a colleague would say in the early 1980s - with pride and affection - 'He is now as good as he used to think he was.'"

Closer to home, Julie Craig at
Yellow Bug News, begs to differ, saying, "He was a pompous, arrogant SOB. I didn't care for him in the least."

As for me, I really can't comment about Jennings (as a person) with much authority, never having met the man. And the work I did with him was best described as 'indirect' ... though it did give me some insight into how he worked. And it's that work, and his record, on which I can speak with some confidence.

And my opinion is only a little different from Julie's ... that difference being that - his personality aside - I DID care for the man, and for his work, very much. And the arrogance? Yes, he was proud of his achievements, and how hard he worked to attain those achievements, having overcome a variety of challenges and early setbacks.

He wasn't really larger-than-life ... rather, he was an example of how large all our lives could be with hard work and determination. And he wasn't really a know-it-all ... he just came closer to it than most of us could ever hope.

Jennings was anchoring "ABC World News Tonight" in New York when I was a writer here, in West Texas, for KMID-TV. We sent some promotional scripts to New York, asking Jennings to record them for us ... something like, "You're a part of it with Big 2 News, the Permian Basin's News Leader" ... which is a pretty common practice for networks and their affiliates.

But Jennings wouldn't do it, at first. How did he know, he asked, that we were "the News Leader?" It was only later, after re-submitting our request along with the ratings numbers (showing us to be a dominant #1) that he relented, and cut the promos for us.

Arrogant? Yes. But it also was an example of his making sure he didn't go on the air with anything less than the facts, and that those facts were checked and verified. A small point, maybe, but significant in forming my impression of the man and his work ...

... I will miss both in the years ahead.

2 comments:

Eric said...

Jeff, that's a great anecdote about Jennings' attention to detail. Thanks for sharing it.

Jeff said...

My pleasure, Eric ... thanks for stopping in. While it may have been a small thing, I wonder if it might have been part of the reason he avoided the pitfall that snared one of his contemporaries, earlier this year.