Monday, February 18, 2008

Peter Jennings

Our new biography of journalist Peter Jennings - who died of lung cancer in 2005 - follows an unusual format. Rather than sitting down and interviewing a bunch of Jennings' associates, combing through his old letters and quotes, and then parsing it all out into a 300-page narrative of his life, Peter Jennings: a reporter's life takes a different approach. Editors Kate Darnton, Kayce Freed Jennings and Lynn Sherr have created a bare-bones oral biography of the former anchorman of ABC's World News Tonight. Friends, relatives, colleagues, and prominent political figures have all contributed their recollections of Jennings: his charm, his insightful questions, his work ethic and his passion for reporting the news. The quotes follow a chronological track, beginning with his public-school upbringing in Canada (Jennings became an American citizen in 2003), his brief foray into nightly news as the youngest anchorman ever (a mere 26 years old), his on-the-spot reporting at the Munich Olympics and on to his 27-year stint at the anchor desk of ABC News. This book actually ends up being more of a tribute than a biography. There are no laundry lists of dates or facts, and while the commentators don't shy away from mentioning mistakes Jennings made, or arguments they had with him, the sense of respect and affection each commentator has for Jennings comes through on each page. It definitely shows Jennings in a much more human way than a half-hour newscast.

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