In Peter Jennings' Own Words

Aug. 8, 2005 -- -- On reporting

"It doesn't matter whether I'm the anchor or the editor. Once a reporter, always a reporter, and once a reporter you always understand that the stories are essentially about people. And the best way to tell other people about what's happening is through the lives and the attitudes of people you encounter."

"Someone will come at us in the middle of the day with a particular story that I know, just instinctively that I want to know the other side of the story. I lived in the Middle East for a long time, and the one thing I learned after living there was that there is no one absolutely essential truth for all people, and that every time I look at a coin, I instinctively want to look at the other side."

"The worse things got around me the cooler I tend to be. I tend to focus very hard under pressure."

On Americans

"I think by and large Americans are really hopeful people, and I think there's a great beauty in that. Lots of differences in the country, but there's a common denominator, I think, about being in America and of this society that breed hopefulness. And when I come to doing the broadcast every day, I'm always conscious of how many people there are out there and how different they are in many respects. But there is a certain hopefulness in the country, and then, I think, is when I feel that what I'm doing matters."

"We are a nation of immigrants, I'm one of them, who have come here because they believed in the ideas and could somehow contribute to the ideas and be themselves in ways that you couldn't be quite anywhere else."

On the Middle East

"We sometimes think that the two sides are approaching some kind of understanding, and then they drift apart again, or in the case of today are jolted dramatically apart. The Middle East, Israel and the Arab countries is like one of the evil pendulums of history which just goes back and forth and back and forth hitting all sorts of inconsistency and misunderstanding each time it makes a move."

On 9/11

"I checked in with my children, who were deeply distressed, as I think many young people are across the United States, and so if you're a parent and you've got a kid in another part of the country, call 'em up."

On living with lung cancer

"As some of you know, I have learned that I have lung cancer. I was a smoker until about 20 years ago. And yes, I was weak and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reasons, the news does slow you down a bit. I have been reminding my colleagues today who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them. And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis. I will continue to broadcast on good days. My voice will not always be like this. Certainly, it's been a long time, and I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn't deeply value the audience's loyalty should be in another line of work. To be honest, I'm surprised at the kindness of the people today. Even I was taken aback by how far and fast news travels. Finally, I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, "OK, when does the hair go?"

I get up every day knowing that I can learn or understand something better and that it is my job to do so.

On writing

I'm sometimes referred to as a streetside writer by my colleagues because I sometimes do my best writing sitting on the sidewalk long before I ever got back to the newsroom, and I think it's because the freshness of the experience, the freshness of the encounter with whomever I've met and seen and tried to understand may make some difference in the way I approach the news.

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