Peter Jennings, the anchor of ABC World News Tonight wasn’t at work the day our third year radio and tv broadcasting class toured the network’s New York bureau in late January, 1989.
But the desk and anchor chair where he sat and read the news to millions of Americans was. And like kids lining up to get a photo with Santa Claus, a few of us lined up to get our photo taken where the respected news anchor worked.
While I admired all three of the big network anchors including Tom Brokaw from NBC Nightly News and Dan Rather who anchored the CBS Evening News, Jennings to me had a smooth and trusting delivery that made you want to watch and learn. But, perhaps I am a bit biased in saying that because he was the Canadian of the three and his father Charles was also a well known and respected broadcaster in Canada.
“We begin in Canada……”
Peter Jennings began his career in radio at a station in Brockville, Ontario in 1959, before moving one hour north to take a job in television at CJOH-TV in Canada’s nations capital Ottawa. He would be hired by ABC in 1965 at the age of 26, the youngest anchor ever hired by the network, to anchor its newscast. His ratings weren’t the best as he was up against iconic anchors Walter Cronkite on CBS and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC.
His time had not yet arrived. ABC News took him off the desk and kept him as a reporter where he headed up the network’s Middle East Bureau.
He would get his second chance at anchoring in August of 1983 and stayed on the job at ABC World News Tonight until his death in 2005.
“We begin tonight….”
The ABC newsroom, from what I remember was a lot larger and quieter than I expected, and sitting in “‘the chair’ was not as I had imagined.
There was at least one tv camera pointed at the anchor desk, and behind that camera the room, which was about the size of a small gym, was dark.
I sat, did an “anchor-like” impersonation, the photo was snapped, and that was it.
When the studio lights were turned on for Jennings it was showtime as he started the newscast with his signature intro, “Good Evening. We begin tonight…..”
Here is copy of a network newscast circa January 1989, that I found on Youtube.
This newscast aired a week before we arrived in New York for our class trip.