Sunday, December 16, 2007

Book review: Peter Jennings, a Reporter's Life

TitlePeter Jennings: A Reporter's Life
AuthorKate Darnton
Rating****
Tagspeter-jennings reporters news mass-media
Your reviewPeter Jennings was my favorite news anchor for many years, and this book explains to me why. He was remarkable for the breadth of his knowledge, and his insistence on sharing the complexity of the story with his audience, believing they were capable of understanding and interested in doing so.

He was endlessly curious, talking to people of every nation, culture, ethnicity, class, from leaders of many nations to the homeless. He would be standing in line at an airport, for example, and talk to people up and down the line, always interested in their experiences and focusing on the person he was talking to at the time. This struck me particularly because almost as often as people who knew him speak of Peter Janning's curiosity, people who know or have met President George W. Bush speak of his being incurious. Explains to a large extent why I so liked Jennings and so dislike Bush.

Jennings was first an anchor at ABC News before he was 30, and before he was a seasoned reporter. When he knew it wasn't working, he said so, and requested to be sent out into the field. He then traveled a lot of the world, worked hard, and grew in his craft. His first major job was reporting on the Middle East He tried to convey the complexity, and was accused of being anti-Zionist, simply for reporting on the Palestinian side of the story as well as the Israeli. Over the years he continued to insist on being fair, and reporting not just both sides of a story, but often the multiplicity of sides. Later he was based in London before being called back to the top anchor post at ABC No matter his position, he insisted on the importance of international news, even when told it wasn't profitable and people weren't interested. He was proved right by 9/11, which he was better positioned to explain than many due to his experience in the Middle East.

How much did he cover of stories such as the downside of globalization? I don't know, but I suspect he was more open to it than some. The book claims that he was skeptical of the information coming out of the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war, though I don't think he spoke against it as much as I wish he had.

He wasn't a perfect man... duh, he was human. He demanded as much of his colleagues and crew as he did of himself, but if someone told him he was doing something wrong he listened

Without him, I don't think nearly as many stories are being told, and are not being told nearly as well.
Other authors
Editor – Jennings, Kayce Freed
Editor – Sherr, Lynn
PublicationPublicAffairs (2007), Hardcover, 321 pages
Publication date2007
ISBN1586485172 / 9781586485177

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Peter Jennings was far and away my favorite newscaster, much less anchor, too. I still miss him. I always felt that he delivered the news with a seriousness, but also a compassion, that others lacked. Sounds like a great book!