The Insider

Aug 26, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Stay tuned for Peter Jennings …
There’s a press preview of Peter Jennings’ six-part prime-time series “In Search of America” at 8 a.m. today. That’s no typo. On the penultimate Monday of the summer, reporters, who tend to be grumpy under the best of circumstances, are invited to assemble at ABC headquarters. At 8 A.M.!!!
No offense to the “World News Tonight” anchor since 1983, to his series (which airs Sept. 3-7) or to the companion book (co-authored with Todd Brewster), but any reporter up and at `em at 8 A.M.!!!!! on the last Monday in August will not be there for polite chitchat about a synergized search (ABC sister Hyperion is publishing the book) for founding themes in modern times.
We’ll be there at that unseasonable hour because it’s an opportunity to ask face to face whether Mr. Jennings, whose contract was to expire at summer’s end, and ABC, which reportedly had been bent on whittling back his salary by perhaps as much as 25 percent, have come to an agreement. The consensus at key water coolers is that they have and that Mr. Jennings is getting no raise. Which would mean he’s stuck with a salary reported to be $10 million a year.
Late last week there was no such conventional wisdom about whether the “Peter Jennings Reporting” documentary unit-or his guarantee of prime-time “Reporting” specials-would emerge unscathed in so cost-conscious a time. Nor was there a sense of whether Mr. Jennings had been able to hold on to the clause that guarantees he will earn at least $1 more than any other ABC News talent. Some sources suggest that the renegotiation of the contract for Charlie Gibson-who co-anchors “Good Morning America” and substitutes for Mr. Jennings-was useful to the network in the renegotiations with Mr. Jennings.
ABC News President David Westin and Mr. Jennings have played things extraordinarily close to the vest all summer. “We don’t comment on the status of Peter’s contract,” a spokesperson said just last week.
Logic as it is defined in the world outside network newsrooms would suggest that if one is inviting the press to spend time-did The Insider mention that it’s at the ungawdly hour of 8 A.M.!!!!!!!!!!! on a summer Monday?-with one’s flagship personality, one has secured said personality for the foreseeable future.
Stay tuna-ed for Round 2 …
The Insider can hardly wait for the ratings battle to begin between “Birds of Prey” and “Fastlane,” which are airing at 9 p.m. Wednesdays this season on The WB and Fox, respectively. The two freshman series had barely gone into production on neighboring stages on the Warner Bros. lot when members of the “Fastlane” production crew ambushed “Prey” counterparts with water blaster artillery. “Prey” retaliated by secreting an open can of tuna in a corner of the “Fastlane” stage.
Sorry, Charlie, but The Insider was unable to find out how rank the tuna smelled before “Fastlaners” found it. But this promises to be a whale of a contest between these 9 o’clock shows.
A break from `Early’ limbo
Nothing had been resolved about the status of Jane Clayson (or any possible replacement for departed Bryant Gumbel) at CBS News before the fortitudinous “Early Show” co-anchor left last week on a vacation that finds her, her mother, her sister and brother-in-law in search of Russian roots in Moscow, Kiev and St. Petersburg. (NBC Sports’ Hannah Storm is sitting in this week on “Early” with weekend anchor Russ Mitchell.) The only things certain are that Ms. Clayson is expected back on the CBS morning show on Sept. 3 and she is scheduled to anchor morning coverage of Sept. 11 anniversary events with Dan Rather.
Inside dirty politics
With longtime CNN/U.S. political director Tom Hannon now the political director for the CNN News Group, the question is who will executive produce “Inside Politics With Judy Woodruff.” The Insider is told that CNN is considering internal and external candidates. The Insider also hears that’s not exactly what the folks who set this campaign in motion had in mind. The Insider has been humming “Backstabber” all week.
Well-informed sources insist that whatever happens, Ms. Woodruff need not fear for her role on the program with which she is now solely identified. Astute sources also wonder whether senior White House correspondent John King, who seems to have lost interest in getting tied to Saturdays with a newsmaker-type show, isn’t overdue for a bigger role on “Politics.” Ditto for saavy Capitol Hill correspondent for Candy Crowley. The Insider also hears that’s not exactly what the campaigners had in mind.