You can believe me when I say I never watch television news, because I literally had no idea that Peter Jennings was even sick, let alone dying. This seriously shocks me. I really thought he was going to be an anchor forever. His voice ranks near the top of my favorite cadences of all time. I'm stunned and saddened to see him exit so soon.
The picture on the left is taken from a textbook from 1966. Of course, the kids' hairstyles and clothing give that away all by themselves. But as you can see, Peter's been around longer than his appearance and relevance would have suggested. Even in second grade (when I got this book at my school's clearance sale), I remember thinking how far he had come.
Jennings' departure abruptly ends an era of legendary broadcasters. Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings were practically the only network evening-news names that I've ever known, and over the space of seven months they've all gone. While I understand that all good things must end, it's still been abrupt. Brokaw retired, conservatives ran Rather out on a rail and Jennings died of lung cancer. These men were often considered the "liberal elite," which in today's media environment means that they were somewhere to the left of Fox News. I will miss all three. Not because I think they're liberal paragons, but because their respective absences make the current for-profit cable-news model all the more glaring. That's a cancer of a different kind.
On a related note, I see that broadcaster Shana Alexander also died back in June. She was the liberal debater on 60 Minutes (against James Kilpatrick) in the late 1970s. She was the inspiration for Jane Curtin's Weekend Update persona on Saturday Night Live, whom Dan Aykroyd would often call an "ignorant slut" because he couldn't really call her on what she said.
With karma like this, Bill O'Reilly will live to be 130.