Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In memoriam Peter Jennings

Jennings's retirement and lamented death from cancer mark the end of an era: that era when network news anchors were expected to display any intellectual capacity whatsoever. Jennings, Cronkite, Sevareid, all reached back to Ed Murrow, who though he hated doing TV had the prior journalistic experience, and the breadth of insight, to be able to synthesize information in real time, on camera, and help to interpret that information. Consistently, in the big stories of the last 15 years (Iran-Contra, Gulf I, Bosnia/Herzogovina, Serbia-Croatia, Rwanda, Sudan, Gulf II, 9/11--and isn't it curious how many of those stories have involved greed, stupidity, falsehood or negligence from career politicians?), Jennings had the guts, balls and stamina to sit at the desk hour after hour, reining in the wild speculation, providing thoughtful commentary (and commentary on the limitations of commentary) in the midst of the chaos.

The era of such news anchorage is over. Nothing reveals the intellectual adequacy and conceptual narrowness of contemporary news anchors (CNN, Big 3, Fox, doesn't matter) than those painful occasions when the TelePrompTer breaks down or they are otherwise called upon to improvise a coherent sentence: they simply are not smart enough to do so.

[Interpolated 8.18: To confirm the above analysis: just look at this NYT article, and check out the picture of John Roberts.]

Jennings could, and did, with a commendable dedication to clarity and sanity.

He was a gallant gentleman.

No comments: