End of an era? death of ABC TV anchor Peter Jennings

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York
The end of an era!. That’s how most the stories
here summed up the death of ABC anchorman Peter Jennings. Basically its
true. The day of the TV anchormen on the evening news shows is
virtually over – no matter who the ABC network chooses to replace
Jennings. In less than a year the three major American tv networks have
lost their big stars.
The CBS network lost its No 1 anchor Dan Rather
in the scandal that followed his discredited story about the
non-military service of President Bush. That was just after Tom Brokaw,
retired from his position at NBC. For decades the three newsmen had
brought the nightly news to millions of Americans. They were, some
said, the electronic voice of God. They, in turn, were treated as
journalistic royalty. Doors opened for them that were closed to most
run-of-the-mill journalists. They were granted interviews with
politicians and even dictators that normally wouldn’t deign to speak to
a journalist. In turn all three anchors helped in their own way push
their employers to run many serious in-depth stories and cover world
events that might otherwise have been ignored.
What will happen now? It’s feared that the
quality of late night tv news in the US will deteriorate . In a
business which is tending more and more to towards the trivial, where
tabloid journalism is taking over, there is a doubt whether the
successors to Jennings, Rather and Brokaw will have the clout to insist
on serious journalism, at least on TV. Even before they left the scene
there was a lament for the days of Walter Cronkite, the veteran TV
newsman who even presidents feared.
Just as in the days of radio news it was the
voice of Ed Murrow that carried the big weight. But Jennings, son of a
Canadian journalist, was particularly liked because – although he never
finished high-school – he was sophisticated, urbane, erudite and
Ironically, although just four months ago on the air, in a croaky
voice, he revealed his medical problem, a serious case of lung cancer
brought on he admitted by years of smoking, his network could not bring
itself to preparing his obit in advance.
They were, in fact ,caught short when he died
late last Sunday night at the age of 67. “We did not want to admit he
was dying” said a network spokesman. “And we didn’t want to let his
family think we had lost hope” There was, as a result, a scramble to
put a major tribute on the air – in which colleagues from all over the
world, by remote link-ups, hastened to add their voices and their
reminiscences . Work went on through the night to put together the
two-hour tribute. One of the most telling scenes was when the studio
camera focused – and lingered – on Jenning’s now empty anchorman’s
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