'Anchors Away' for the Boy Reporter

At age 26, Jennings was named anchor of ABC's nightly newscast. He was the youngest anchor in the history of American television.

TED KOPPEL: It was sort of a pathetic excuse for a news division. There was CBS. There was NBC. And then you sort of looked around, and somewhere back there was ABC. We did a fifteen-minute, black-and-white film newscast every evening. The fact of the matter is that if ABC had been more of a network in 1963, they wouldn't have hired me. And if they had been more of a news division in 1964, they wouldn't have hired Peter.

SARAH JENNNINGS: I think it took a lot of confidence for him to come down and, at such a young age, really think that he could make a run of it against such sterling and established broadcasters as Walter Cronkite. And well, he did try.

PETER JENNINGS: I almost didn't recover from some of my earliest arrogance. My first inauguration, as Marines approached the White House, I said glibly that their anthem was "Anchors Aweigh," which was of course the Navy song. I insisted on saying "shedule" until my Jewish friends asked me what Schul I had gone to in Canada.

ELMER LOWER: I think being too young, too pretty, too inexperienced, and earning too much money-I think all those things hurt him. But when we'd discuss it with him, he said, "You got what you bought. I mean, I can't change this. I can't change 24 years old to 34 years old."

PETER JENNINGS: We went to a lunch here in New York-Chet Huntley and Walter Cronkite and young Peter Jennings. And some man stood up in the audience and said, "You know, you guys are just in show business." And Brinkley drew himself up to his haughtiest height and said, "Excuse me. The only concession I make to show business is on the way to the studio-I stop in the makeup room and I have these bags under my eyes painted up." And Cronkite piped in, "Yes, and Jennings stops in and has them painted on."

SARAH JENNINGS: I think the first go-round was not successful. I think he came to terms with that fairly rapidly. He realized he wasn't good at this, and he better go off and, you know, learn his trade, learn his business.

SAM DONALDSON: I think it's remarkable because when he was taken off instead of leaving or sort of whining about how fate had dealt him such a bad blow, he became tenacious in going overseas and learning the beat, learning the story, learning the people. Peter was a great broadcaster to begin with-handsome, good voice, presence-and he became a great journalist.

PETER JENNINGS: That moment of failure for me was also a golden opportunity. Because I was obliged to figure out who I was and what I really wanted to be. And once I had dusted myself off, which didn't take that long, I went off to have the very best time of my life, discovering the world.

Sources:

"I almost didn't recover from…" Speech before the National Association of Canadian Clubs, Hamilton, Ontario, September 30, 2000.

"We went to a lunch here…" Interview by Terry Gross, Fresh Air, NPR, November 17, 1998.

"That moment of failure…" Commencement address, Nightingale-Bamford School, New York, NY, June 11, 1998.

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