ABC Television news anchor Peter Jennings died today. Much will be written remembering his illustrious career. Here's my small contribution:
In October of 1989 San Francisco was rocked by an 7.1 magnitude earthquake. As a photographer I began looking for images to tell the story. On the day after the quake I went to the studios of San Francisco's ABC affiliate station KGO with the idea of shooting the news coverage and possibly tagging along with reporters who had the kind of access that I wanted. A helpful public relations representative suggested that I talk to Peter Jennings who had flown in to cover the story. In order to accomplish this I had to catch Peter walking to a waiting car and quickly explain who I was and what I wanted. Peter questioned me briefly and agreed to let me ride along in his limousine as he and his producers assembled the evening news on the way, but on one condition--that I not shoot pictures of him with the stretch limo.
As we approached the location in San Francisco where Peter was to stand in front of damage from the quake and present the news, he asked the driver to let us out a couple of blocks away. As we walked he told me why he'd made the request; Several years earlier another ABC news anchor arrived to cover a breaking news story dressed in a fur coat and riding in a limousine and was the object of scorn for years after. Jennings needed the limo for the space to accomodate the news production people and certainly didn't care to be seen in a false light by other representatives of the assembled media.
Watching Peter Jennings manage the newscast was to see years of honed behavior. After first setting up to begin the broadcast, and while the director was giving the countdown to air, the fire department announced that a dangerous situation that was developing--everyone would have to move immediately. Viewers never saw how smoothly Jennings complied with the order on air without losing focus. His grace under pressure and kindness to a stranger left me with an appreciation for the man. He's sure to be missed.