Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Sunday, August 07, 2005
 
Rest in Peace, Peter Jennings

I can't remember when I started watching World New Tonight With Peter Jennings, but it was before I started going to school, and before I could read long words and small print properly. Indira Gandhi's assasination, the Oliver North hearings, the aftermath of the Challenger disaster, the conventions of '88, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the invasion of Kuwait, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the assasination of Rajiv Gandhi, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the election of Bill Clinton--these were all shaped for me by the calm and measured tones of Peter Jennings. He came to LA when it rained, breaking the drought of my childhood. Every New Years Eve I religiously watched the end of the year salute. Even after I cut my teeth on the LA Times as a child and even, much later, after I got my subscription to The New Yorker, Jennings was my guide for the events of the day. Through several moves, two states, and three or four houses, there was an unbroken family ritual. Come home, take a shower, watch Jennings. When high school started, I was given the choice of one hour of tv an evening. Resignedly I said goodbye to my beloved Star Trek--giving up Jennings wasn't even an option.

Sticking with him was almost an impossibility in college though; with an hour long commute on the train and lab classes that went till 5, my habit was broken. I was more likely to get my news on the drive to school via NPR. Later I turned to Abcnews.go.com, and for years that and the New York Times were my internet news sources. Eventually Akamai and then Google opened up the wide world of hourly news. Sadly, by the time I heard that Jennings was ill and wouldn't be sitting in the anchor desk regularly, I had long ago stopped regularly watching news on TV. In a lot of ways, I felt I had outgrown it. Broadcast segments really didn't do it for me, and the instantaneity and sense of being there had largely been superceded by blogs and wire services. More than anything it was the lack of routine--I had just lost the habit of getting home in time for his broadcast.

I made one major exception--the New Years eve broadcast of 1999 turning into 2000. I had stayed up late watching the sad resolution of the Indian Air hijacking--a dark foreshadowing of events to come--and barely caught the dawning of the New Year in India. I didn't miss any after that. I stayed glued to the TV, as much fascinated with Jennings' stamina and familiar wit--I have a vague memory of Bill Blakemore doing card tricks on TV to keep them all awake?!--as with the perfect, beautiful hourly celebrations of the new millennium sweeping from capital to capital, from Moscow to Paris to Rome to London and Paris to Newfoundland to New York to me. Despite the foreshadowing and some recent sad personal events, that day seems to epitomize everything hopeful and worldly and eager about our era. It was only right and proper that Peter Jennings would chaperone it.

When 9/11 happened I didn't have proper TV signal, and I gnashed my teeth for a Jennings fix, but it just wasn't possible, and the habit seemed broken. Sadly, now it has to be.

My understanding of the building of the atomic bomb, and the physicists who made it, was greatly influenced by a documentary he made, and that directly contributed to my desire to major in physics. My understanding of the situation regarding Israel and Palestine was also influenced by his work. He consistently reported on India when no one else really cared. I don't really know what to say, except he's the single most present public figure in my life so far, even counting the relative recent absence. I really can't imagine my childhood and youth without him. When considering the formation of any of my thinking on politics, my sense of the globe, my sense of what's current--at the beginning of all of it is some World News Tonight segment, some introduction by Peter Jennings. I'm just so sad that I was in New York, with people he knew, and I never got to meet him.

I'll close with one of my favorite Jennings clips ever. You know the joke about Anchors not wearing any pants? Well, at some point I was flipping channels and I caught part of an ABC anniversary special. I forget what the context was but there was a great clip of a young Peter Jennings reporting from Egypt. He was standing on a balcony overlooking the city, delivering some fairly serious commentary but in his shirtsleeves. Then he signs out. The tape keeps rolling; he clearly thinks he's off camera and he's almost certainly off the air. He furrows his brow and says to the Cameraman, "Uh, ---, what are you doing?" The camera tilts down. No pants.

Rest in Peace Mr. Jennings. Thank you for everything.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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Scott McCloud


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