Jennings, Peter 1938–

views updated May 23 2018

JENNINGS, Peter 1938


Full name, Peter Charles Archibald Ewart Jennings; born July 29, 1938, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; immigrated to the United States, 1964, naturalized citizen, 2003; son of Charles (a broadcast journalist and television executive) and Elizabeth (maiden name, Osborne) Jennings; married Annie Malouf (divorced); married Valerie Godsoe (divorced); married Kati Marton (a writer and former news bureau chief in Bonn, West Germany), 1979 (divorced, 1993); married Kayce Freed (a television producer), December 6, 1997; children: (third marriage) Elizabeth, Christopher. Education: Attended the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Avocational Interests: Skiing, sailing, reading thrillers and adventure novels.

Addresses: Contact c/o ABC Television (NY), 30 West 67th St., 9th Floor, New York, NY 10023; c/o 7 West 66th St., New York, NY 10023.

Career: Television journalist. PJ Productions, principal; worked with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Montreal, Quebec; CFJRRadio, Brockville, Ontario, reporter and interviewer, 195961; CJOHTV, Ottawa, Ontario, special events commentator; parliamentary correspondent and network anchorman with Canadian TV, Ottawa. Royal Bank of Canada, teller, 1957.

Member: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, International Radio and Television Society, Overseas Press Club.

Awards, Honors: Overseas Press Club Award, 1972; George Foster Peabody Award, 1974; Emmy Award, best coverage of a single breaking news story, 1982, for Personal Note: Beirut; George Polk Award, Long Island University Journalism Department, best television reportingnetwork, and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award (with Tom Yellin and Leslie Cockburn), 1990; Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting, Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 1991; Award of Excellence, Banff Television Festival, 1993; TV Guide Award, favorite news personality, 2000; TV Guide Award nomination, news person of the year, 2001; Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, National Press Foundation, 2001; additional Overseas Press Club Award; National Headliner Award; Alfred I. DuPontColumbia University Award; named America's Best National Television Anchor, Washington Journalism Review, for several years in a row; LL.D. (honorary degree), Rider College; honorary degrees from Loyola University, University of Rhode Island, and Carleton University.


Television Appearances; Series:

Coanchor, CTV National News, CTV, 19621964.

Correspondent, ABC News, ABC, 1964.

Coanchor, ABC Evening News, ABC, 19651968.

Host, A.M. America, ABC, 1975.

Chief foreign correspondent, ABC News, ABC, 19751978.

London anchor, World News Tonight, ABC, 19781983.

Anchor, World News Tonight (also known as ABC WorldNews Tonight ), ABC, 1983.

We the People, ABC, 1987.

Host and narrator, The AIDS Quality, PBS, 1989.

Anchor, Turning Point, ABC, 1994.

Anchor, ABC News Saturday Night, ABC, 1998.

Host and narrator, The Century: America's Time, History Channel, 1999.

Host and narrator, The Century, ABC, 1999.

Anchor, America.01, ABC, 2001.

Also appeared as anchor, Capital to Capital; host, Let's Face It, CBC; host, Time Out, CBC.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Reporter, The Century, ABC, 1999.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Correspondent, ABC News Closeup on the Consumer Offensive: Who Speaks for the People?, ABC, 1975.

Correspondent, ABC News Closeup on Food: The Crisis of Price, ABC, 1975.

Making the News, ABC, 1985.

Anchor, 45/85, ABC, 1985.

Host, Liberty Weekend Preview, ABC, 1986.

Commentator, Liberty Weekend, ABC, 1986.

Narrator, At a Loss for Words ... Illiterate in America, ABC, 1986.

Anchor, After the Sexual Revolution, ABC, 1986.

Host and narrator, We the People, PBS, 1987.

Anchor, The Summit in America, ABC, 1987.

Ronald Reagan, ABC, 1987.

Questions of Policy, Questions of War, ABC, 1987.

Anchor, The Pope in America, ABC, 1987.

Panelist, In the Face of Terrorism, PBS, 1987.

Anchor, A Celebration of Citizenship, ABC, 1987.

Host (United States), Capital to Capital, ABC, 1987.

Anchor, The Blessings of Liberty, 1987.

Host, The Alfred I. Dupont/Columbia University Awards, PBS, 1987.

Moderator, Violence in a Tube, ABC, 1988.

Cohost, "Opening Ceremonies," The 1988 Winter Olympic Games, ABC, 1988.

Anchor, Drugs: Why This Plague?, ABC, 1988.

Anchor, Drugs: A Plague upon the Land, ABC, 1988.

Anchor, The '88 Vote: Election Night, ABC, 1988.

Host, JFK Remembered, 1988.

The Politics of Privacy, PBS, 1988.

Campaign: The PrimeTime President, PBS, 1988.

The Television Academy Hall of Fame, ABC, 1989.

Host, Christmas at Starcross, ABC, 1989.

Host and commentator, Images of the '80s, ABC, 1989.

Anchor, Worlds in Turmoil, ABC, 1989.

Anchor, Presidential Inauguration, ABC, 1989.

Anchor, Capital to Capital: The Environment, ABC, 1989.

Anchor, Beyond the Cold War: The Risk and the Opportunity, ABC, 1989.

The Television Academy Hall of Fame, Fox, 1990.

Fifteen Years of MacNeil/Lehrer, 1990.

Edward R. Murrow: This Reporter, ABC, 1990.

Host and moderator, Future Forum: A World of Competition, ABC, 1990.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns, ABC, 1990.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: From the Killing Fields, ABC, 1990.

Anchor (Washington, DC) Capital to Capital: Leadership in the '90s, ABC, 1990.

Dangerous Assignments, ABC, 1991.

Host, Carnegie Hall: Live at 100! The Gala Celebration, ABC, 1991.

Anchor, War in the Gulf: Answering Children's Questions, ABC, 1991.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: From the Heart of Harlem, ABC, 1991.

Anchor, A Line in the Sand: What Did America Win?, ABC, 1991.

Anchor, A Line in the Sand: War or Peace?, ABC, 1991.

Anchor, The Health Quarterly, ABC, 1991.

The Class of the 20th Century, ABC, 1992.

Moderator, Prejudice: Answering Children's Questions, ABC, 1992.

Moderator, The '92 Vote: The Democratic Candidates Debate, ABC, 1992.

Host, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Cocaine War, Lost in Bolivia, ABC, 1992.

Host, A National Town Meeting: Who Is Ross Perot?, ABC, 1992.

Host, Growing Up in the Age of AIDS: An ABC News Town Meeting for the Familywith Peter Jennings, ABC, 1992.

Host, Alfred I. DuPont/Columbia University Awards in Broadcast Journalism, ABC, 1992.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Who Is Ross Perot?, ABC, 1992.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Men, Sex, and Rape, ABC, 1992.

Anchor, The Missiles of October: What the World Didn't Know, ABC, 1992.

Anchor, '92 Vote: The Democratic Convention, ABC, 1992.

Peter Jennings Reporting: The Land of the Demons, ABC, 1993.

Host, CoverUp at Ground Zero, ABC, 1993.

Anchor, Kids in the Crossfire: Violence in America, ABC, 1993.

House on Fire: America's Haitian Crisis, ABC, 1994.

Moderator, President Clinton: Answering Children's Questions, ABC, 1994.

Host, While America Watched: The Bosnia Tragedy, ABC, 1994.

Host, Peter Jennings Reporting: In the Name of God, 1995.

Host and reporter, Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped, ABC, 1995.

Host and interviewer, The Peacekeepers: How the UN Failed in Bosnia, ABC, 1995.

Anchor, Into the Jury's Hands, ABC, 1995.

Anchor, Children First: Real Kids, Real Solutions, ABC, 1995.

Host, Rage and Betrayal: The Lives of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, ABC, 1996.

Himself, The People and the Power Game, ABC, 1996.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Never Say DieHow the Cigarette Companies Keep On Winning, ABC, 1996.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Jerusalem Stories, ABC, 1996.

Anchor, The '96 Vote: The Republican National Convention, ABC, 1996.

Anchor, The '96 Vote: The Democratic National Convention, ABC, 1996.

Anchor, The '96 Vote: Election Night, ABC, 1996.

The Daily Show YearEnd Spectacular '97, Comedy Central, 1997.

The 1997 ESPY Awards, ESPN, 1997.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Who Is Tim McVeigh?, ABC, 1997.

Anchor, Dangerous World: The Kennedy Years, ABC, 1997.

ABC News Town Meeting: Kids ... Parents ... Straight Talk on Drugs, ABC, 1997.

Correspondent, Peter Jennings Reporting: Unfinished Business: The C.I.A. and Saddam Hussein, ABC, 1997.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: Pot of Gold, ABC, 1997.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: The American Game, ABC, 1998.

Anchor, Crisis in the White House: The President Testifies, ABC, 1998.

Anchor, Cancer: Race for a Cure, ABC, 1998.

(Uncredited) Himself, Divas Live: An Honors Concert for VH1 Save the Children (also known as VH1 Divas Live ), VH1, 1998.

Washington's Other Scandal, PBS, 1998.

The Story of the Berlin Wall, History Channel, 1999.

Anchor, ABC 2000, ABC, 1999.

Host and narrator, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus, ABC, 2000.

Host, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Gun Fight, ABC, 2000.

Anchor, Peter Jennings Reporting: The Dark Horizon India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, ABC, 2000.

Moderator, New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, PBS, 2000.

Anchor, A Nation Waits, ABC, 2000.

Kids Pick the Issues, Nickelodeon, 2000.

Anchor, ABC 2000: The Vote, ABC, 2000.

(In archive footage) Himself, The Beatles Revolution, ABC, 2000.

Pops Goes the Fourth! 2001, Arts and Entertainment, 2001.

Himself, Breaking the News, CBS, 2001.

Host, Answering Kids' Questions: An ABC News Special, ABC, 2001.

ABC Wide World of Sports 40th Anniversary Special, ABC, 2001.

Host, ABC 2002, ABC, 2001.

Host, In Search of America, ABC, 2002.

Jim McKay: My World in My Worlds, HBO, 2003.

Also associated with Personal Note: Beirut.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Ethics in America, 1989.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1990.

Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 2001, 2002.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2002.

Television Work; Series:

Middle East bureau chief, ABC News, ABC, 19681975.

Senior editor, World News Tonight, ABC, 1983.

Television Work; Specials:

Producer and script editor, Worlds in Turmoil, ABC, 1989.

Senior editor, Growing Up in the Age of AIDS: An ABC News Town Meeting for the Familywith Peter Jennings, ABC, 1992.

Radio Appearances:

Host, Peter's People, CBC, c. 1947.

Also appeared as news reporter, CFJR, Canada.

Film Appearances:

Himself, The World Is Watching, 1988.

Himself, Only the News That Fits, 1989.

Anchor, Schwarzkopf: How the War Was Won, 1991.

(In archive footage; uncredited) Himself, The Panama Deception, 1992.

(Uncredited) Himself, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992.

Himself, The Last Party, 1993.


Taped Readings:

In Search of America, Hyperion Audiobooks, 2002.


Television Specials:

45/85, ABC, 1985.

The Blessings of Liberty, ABC, 1987.

Worlds in Turmoil, ABC, 1989.

Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns, ABC, 1990.

Peter Jennings Reporting: From the Killing Fields, ABC, 1990.

Peter Jennings Reporting: From the Heart of Harlem, ABC, 1991.

The Health Quarterly, PBS, 1991.

The Missiles of October: What the World Didn't Know, ABC, 1992.

Peter Jennings Reporting: Men, Sex and Rape, ABC, 1992.

CoverUp at Ground Zero, ABC, 1993.

Common Miracles: The New American Revolution in Learning, ABC, 1993.

Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped, ABC, 1995.

Children First: Real Kids, Real Solutions, ABC, 1995.

Rage and Betrayal: The Lives of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, ABC, 1996.

Peter Jennings Reporting: The Search for Jesus, ABC, 2000.

Peter Jennings Reporting: The Gun Fight, ABC, 2000.

Television Episodes:

"Abbed Hammoud," America.01, ABC, 2001.

"Engine Company No. 1," America.01, ABC, 2001.


Coauthor, The Pope in Britain: Pope John Paul II British Visit, Bodley Head, 1982.

"Introduction," The '84 Vote, 1985.

Cointerviewer, Children of the Troubles: Growing Up in Northern Ireland, Stranmillis College, 1986.

(With Todd Brewster) The Century, Doubleday, 1998.

(With others) The Century for Young People, Random House, 1999.



St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press, 2000.


America, April 30, 1994, p. 18.

American Journalism Review, November, 2001, p. 40.

Broadcasting & Cable, September 27, 1993, p. 36.

Economist, October 23, 1993, p. A38.

Maclean's, July 1, 2000, p. 34.

People Weekly, August 30, 1993, p. 48.

Jennings, Peter

views updated May 29 2018

Peter Jennings

The urbane face of ABC television's World News Tonight for over 25 years, Peter Jennings (1938–2005) embodied the highest standards of American television news journalism.

Never an avuncular father figure like longtime CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, Jennings nevertheless earned viewers' trust through a combination of hard work, authoritative expertise on world affairs, and a certain charisma born of unflappable composure. Though cooped up behind an anchor desk during the best-known phases of his career, Jennings was a foreign correspondent at heart. Viewers expected him to report from the scene at important world events, microphone in hand and dressed in a trademark trench coat, and when he failed to show up in south Asia after the disastrous tsunami of 2004, they correctly guessed that something was wrong.

Hosted Program at Age Nine

The man who became one of the best-known television personalities in the United States came from Canada and took American citizenship only two years before his death. His skeptical outsider's viewpoint on American politics and culture became part of his appeal; in the words of newscaster Robert MacNeil, he had an "ironic distance" that meshed perfectly with his international sense of savoir faire. Jennings was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 29, 1938. Broadcast journalism was in his blood; his father Charles Jennings was a pioneer newscaster on the then-new Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network. Peter Jennings often called his father his hero. Thanks to his father's influence, Jennings made his broadcast debut at age nine, with a children's radio show called "Peter's Program."

Jennings's father tried to steer him away from a career in journalism, however, and in school he floundered. When he was 11 he stole a pack of cigarettes from his grandmother and introduced his sister as well as himself to an unyielding addiction. Spending more time on comic books than on classes, he dropped out of school in the tenth grade and worked for several years as a bank teller. As a result, he has often been cited in lists of people who have risen to the tops of their professions without benefit of a college or even a high school degree. Yet Jennings was far from uneducated; he soon began to read voraciously and to soak up information on almost any subject he encountered. "I have never spent a day in my adult life where I didn't learn something," he said in an interview quoted in People. "And if there is a born-again quality to me, that is it."

Jennings also minimized the impact of his lack of formal education by starting at the bottom of his chosen field and steadily working himself up. He became a reporter and disc jockey at a small radio station in Brockville, Ontario when he was 17, and he soon gained national notice with his on-the-scene reporting of a train crash. A series of career moves followed, each of them occurring when news executives spotted him as a rising young talent and recruited him as an asset for a new organization. In 1961 he was hired by a television station that became part of the launch of Canada's first privately owned television network, CTV. At first his duties involved a music-and-dance show modeled on "American Bandstand," but when CTV launched its own national news broadcast in 1963, Jennings was named co-anchor.

From the start, he showed a propensity to go to the story rather than having correspondents bring it to his desk. He traveled to New York to cover the Democratic Party's national convention there in 1964, and ABC news executive Elmer Lower was impressed by his smooth manner and James Bond-like confidence. ABC at the time was an upstart competitor to the better-known NBC and CBS, and Jennings was picked in 1965 to anchor a 15-minute evening news broadcast.

Teased by Cronkite

Jennings was only 26, and his competition was formidable: the legendary Walter Cronkite at CBS and the duo of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at NBC. Once, when Jennings appeared on a panel with these three veterans, Huntley remarked that his only show-business practice he permitted on NBC's news broadcast was to have a makeup artist paint out the bags under his eyes. "Yeah, Jennings steps in and has them painted on," quipped Cronkite (according to Jamie Malanowski of Entertainment Weekly). ABC's evening news program failed to take off in the ratings, partly because at the time the network did not have the news-gathering resources to match those of its better established competitors. Jennings stepped down as anchor in 1968.

He took the failure to heart and decided that he needed a wider range of experience in the news business. Requesting and receiving a posting to the Middle East, he became ABC's only correspondent covering hot spots in Asia, Africa, and the Arab world. Jennings immersed himself in the history and politics of the countries he covered, developing the beginnings of a wide general expertise that later enabled him to comment comfortably on almost any topic in spontaneous on-air situations. In 1969 he opened an ABC news bureau in Beirut, Lebanon—the first full-time American television news office in the Middle East. He and a sound engineer were briefly imprisoned by Lebanese authorities as tensions with Israel flared. Jennings traveled tirelessly by plane around the Third World, often wearing a trench coat that had belonged to his father.

The world got a good idea of Jennings's cool in a crisis when he reported from the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany on the Black September terrorist attack on Israel's contingent of athletes in the Olympic Village. Jennings hid out in a bathroom as police moved other correspondents out of the area, then set up a post on a balcony with a view overlooking the dormitories where the athletes were being held hostage. His reporting was widely praised in the aftermath of the tragedy, and his days as a young and pretty face in the news business were over.

In 1974 Jennings received a Peabody Award for a profile of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Another profile he did during this period proved prophetic of future events; he gained an interview with Iran's militant Ayatollah Khomeini, then in exile in Paris, and elicited a frank statement that Khomeini planned to overthrow the Shah of Iran. Jennings moved to London that year, and then, in 1975, back to the U.S. to become anchor of ABC's A.M. America, a forerunner of the network's long-running Good Morning America. As always, he was restless in the anchor's chair, and by 1977 he was back in London.

Became Part of Three-Anchor Format

The following year, ABC found a meeting point between Jennings' globetrotting ways and its own desire to elevate the person widely perceived as the network's most accomplished journalist to an anchor position. Jennings, working from London, became one of three anchors of ABC's new World News Tonight, reporting on world events while Frank Reynolds delivered Washington news and Max Robinson explored domestic "heartland" issues from ABC's Chicago affiliate. Jennings's footprint showed in the greater airtime World News Tonight devoted to international stories as compared with evening news programs on CBS and NBC. The triple-anchor arrangement lasted until Reynolds's death from cancer in 1983; Robinson, who also died later in the 1980s, left the network, and Jennings became the sole anchor of World News Tonight.

By that time Jennings had the semblance of a more regular lifestyle. He had two children, Elizabeth and Christopher, by his third wife, Kati Marton. Once described by ABC newsman and Nightline host Ted Koppel (according to Malanowski) as "catnip to women," Jennings was married four times. His first wife was Canadian; his second, Annie Malouf, was a Lebanese photographer he met during his years in Beirut. He and Marton remained friends after he married television producer Kayce Freed, his fourth wife. Early in his career, noted Charles Glass of England's Independent newspaper, Jennings carried the nickname "Stanley Stunning." On the set, however, the perfectionist Jennings had a different moniker: his boss Roone Arledge, reported People's Mike Lipton, called him "Prickly Pete."

Even at the start of his second solo anchor slot, Jennings seemed a senior presence on American news airwaves. His speech was peppered with Canadianisms like his pronunciation of "schedule" with an initial "sh" sound, giving him a faintly exotic air. He presided over a group of ABC reporters like Sam Donaldson who often took an adversarial stance toward the administration in power in Washington, and his own erudition showed through in interviews and in fastmoving breaking news situations. Barbara Walters, as quoted by Harold Jackson of England's Guardian newspaper, said that Jennings "sometimes … drove me crazy because he knew so many details." He once ended a newscast with a novelty story about a small Welsh town, delivering a letter-perfect pronunciation of its name—Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwymd-robwllllantysiliogogogoch—with a twinkle in his eye. By 1986, "World News Tonight" had topped its competitors in audience, and it would not relinquish that position for many years.

In 1989 Jennings, who had seen the construction of the Berlin Wall, reported live as it was torn down by jubilant German crowds. He followed the collapse of Communism closely and broadcast a widely seen interview with Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.

Volunteered Timeto Charity

Jennings became a familiar figure among New Yorkers, from society's upper crust to street people, for whom he served up meals as a volunteer for the Coalition for the Homeless. He often rode the bus and conversed with passengers rather than take the limousine he had at his disposal. Jennings came to think of New York as home. "What always pleased me, as a New Yorker," he was quoted as saying by Rebecca Dana in the New York Observer, "is that so many came to find that New York was different from what they anticipated. It was softer, more generous, and more grateful to other people."

Jennings reported from the scene as apartheid fell in South Africa, as India and Pakistan came to the brink of nuclear war, as civil war flared in the former Yugoslavia, and as the 2000 U.S. presidential election turned into a marathon standoff. Perhaps his toughest assignment of all came when his adopted city came under attack by airborne terrorists on the morning of September 11, 2001. Jennings was on the air for 60 hours over the next several days, taking only short sleep breaks.

The stress of covering that earthshaking event led Jennings to resume smoking; he had essentially kicked the habit some years earlier, but staffers occasionally glimpsed him slipping into an unoccupied room to sneak a cigarette. Late in 2004 he began to sound hoarse, and, complaining of fatigue, he uncharacteristically declined to travel to Southeast Asia to report on damage from the December 26 tsunami. Still, he was shocked when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He announced his condition to viewers on April 5, 2005, planning to take a leave of absence and return to the airwaves, but his condition steadily worsened. After his death in New York on August 7, 2005, New Yorkers taped bouquets of roses to bus-station advertisements that bore his photograph.


Goldberg, Robert, and Gerald Jay, Anchors: Brokaw, Jennings, Rather and the Evening News, Birch Lane Press, 1990.


Broadcasting & Cable, August 15, 2005.

Entertainment Weekly, August 19, 2005.

Guardian (London, England), August 9, 2005.

Independent (London, England), August 9, 2005.

New York Observer, August 15, 2005.

Newsweek, August 22, 2005.

People, August 22, 2005.

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), August 9, 2005.