Over the course of four decades, broadcast journalist Peter Jennings achieved international fame and built an enduring reputation as chief anchor on the ABC Evening News (eventually retitled ABC World News Tonight). Born July 29, 1938, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jennings had broadcasting in his blood: his father, Charles Jennings, served as the first radio announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after its establishment in the mid-'30s, and Peter himself hosted a short-lived children's radio series called Peter's Program at nine years old. Jennings dropped out of high school as a teenager and held down a job as a bank teller for several years. Afterward, he picked up his father's reins and pursued a career as a radio broadcaster and then a television news correspondent.
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A deeply impressed ABC News hired 25-year-old Jennings on August 3, 1964, and invited him to serve as their news anchor one year later. This lasted until January 1968, but at that point, Jennings decided that he needed more grassroots experience and stepped down to resume work as a regular "field correspondent." Bob Young inherited the position from him. From the field, Jennings covered such pivotal and earth-shattering stories as the ongoing American escalation in Vietnam, the 1972 terrorist kidnapping of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, and the Cambodian genocide. After 16 years, Jennings finally reassumed the assignment of ABC News anchor in 1983 and retained the position for over 20 years. (TV historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh later observed that while he was "dismissed as a kid in the '60s, [Jennings rose] in stature to become America's leading anchorman in the 1990s.") In the process, Jennings collected 16 Emmys, a George Foster Peabody Award, a National Headliner Award, a handful of Overseas Press Club Awards, and dozens of additional honors.
Unlike a few of his newsroom contemporaries, Jennings never did feature film work or made humorous cameos as himself in series programs. His filmed work outside of the newsroom exclusively consists of dozens of ABC News and non-ABC-affiliated documentary videos on a seemingly limitless array of subjects, typically with Jennings hosting, dispassionately and objectively. Selected titles include ABC News: Peter Jennings from the Killing Fields (1986), JFK Remembered (1988), Nature's Fury: A Decade of Disasters (1989), The Japanese Way of Life (1990), and ABC News: Inauguration '93 (1993). Around the turn of the millennium, he also hosted the popular programs This Century: America's Time and Peter Jennings Reporting, and published the 1998 bestseller This Century, a 20th century retrospective that Jennings co-authored with Todd Brewster.
Tragically, Jennings died at a relatively young age. Only 67, he passed away in late summer 2005, of lung cancer, a condition he only became aware of four or five months prior. According to the ABC website, Jennings began "aggressive chemotherapy treatments," but they did little to stall the onslaught of the disease. Jennings was married four times: first to Valerie Godsoe, then to Lebanese photographer Annie Malouf, then to Kati Marton, and finally (in 1997 until his death) to Kayce Freed. He had two children with Marton: Elizabeth Jennings (born in 1980) and Christopher Jennings (born in 1982). ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi