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Peter Jennings vaults to American TV

The Story

His CBC Radio debut was at age nine, and at just 26, Peter Jennings catapulted to fame as the host of the ABC Evening News, becoming America's youngest-ever network anchor.A few months into the job, CBC Television's Telescope follows the young Jennings through a typically hectic day on the air. Candid yet confident, Jennings discusses fame and fortune (he thoroughly enjoys both), being called a "glamourcaster" (a term he despises) and claims that he is conceited (a term he concedes.) Other job hazards include threats from white supremacists, daily mail from crazed female fans, and the ever-present risk of uttering a Canadian pronunciation.

Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: June 4, 1965
Guest(s): Peter Jennings
Host: Fletcher Markle
Duration: 22:07

Did You know?

• The son of Charles Jennings, a journalist and vice-president at the CBC, Peter Jennings was born in Toronto on July 29, 1938 and raised in Ottawa.
• At just nine years old, Jennings began a career in broadcasting as host of Peter's People, a weekly half-hour CBC Radio program.
• Jennings dropped out of high school to work in radio in Brockville, Ont., and hosted a teen dance program at age 19.

• In the early 1960s Jennings worked for both radio and television at CBC. He hosted a local public affairs program, an afternoon talk show and worked as an interviewer on the network program Close-Up.
• Ottawa's CJOH-TV, a CTV affiliate, also hired Jennings around the same time to work on Vue, a late-night interview show.

• While he was working in radio Jennings caught the attention of executives at CTV, then Canada's newest TV network. His coverage of a train crash led to an anchoring job on CTV's late-night news broadcast.
• Jennings moved to the United States in 1964, becoming a reporter at ABC. A year later he began working as an anchor at ABC Evening News. Then 26, he was the youngest person ever to anchor a network newscast.

• At first, Jennings's ABC colleagues noticed his handsome face over his journalistic skills, nicknaming him "Stanley Stunning." A Globe and Mail critic, mentioned in this clip, dismissed him as a "glamourcaster."
• Jennings lacked experience, and his ratings were poor. In 1967 he left the ABC anchor's chair to become a foreign correspondent. He worked in Rome, the Middle East, Vietnam and many other locales during a 15-year stint.

• Jennings returned to an anchoring job in 1983 as host of ABC's World News Tonight. The show soon travelled up the ratings from last place to first for national news broadcasts.
• One way Jennings held on to his Canadian roots was by buying a farm in the Gatineau Hills near Ottawa, spending several weeks there in the summer and some weekends during the rest of the year.

• In 2000 Maclean's asked Jennings why he had never taken on U.S. citizenship despite living there for over 30 years. "I adore this country [the United States] that has been so good to me," Jennings said. "But being Canadian is a part of who I am."
• In May 2003 Jennings became an American citizen, retaining his Canadian citizenship. He said the events of Sept. 11, 2001 had strengthened his allegiance to his adopted country.

• Radio reporter, foreign correspondent, television anchor and documentarian, Jennings died on Aug. 7, 2005 at the age of 67.

• Just before his death, Jennings was named to the Order of Canada. He was nominated before he announced that he had lung cancer. Jennings was informed of his nomination by a letter from Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson. His sister accepted the nomination, and his children were expected to accept the award on his behalf. Because appointments to the Order of Canada cannot be made posthumously, Jennings's award is dated to the day his nomination was approved.

• "I don't believe newsmen should be celebrities. The one thing a good journalist wants is to blend into the background. We should never be the story."
- Peter Jennings, 1991


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