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Our Person of the Week

Sep 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The late Peter Jennings will be very much on the TV news industry’s collective mind-and in its collective heart-this week.

Of course, on Tuesday morning, a who’s who of mourners will fill Carnegie Hall for the official memorial service for the man who carried the ABC News flag for more than the 24 years that he anchored the network’s evening newscast.

And at the 26th Annual News and Documentary Emmys tonight, Mr. Jennings’ name will be on the lips of many because his name is on 10 nominations-seven of them for work seen on “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings,” and three of them for work done under his Peter Jennings Productions banner.

Mr. Jennings’ name also has been on the wrists, desks and bulletin boards of members of the “World News Tonight” staff since “World News” executive producer Jon Banner handed out approximately 100 royal blue bracelets that ask, in the font of cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s yellow LIVESTRONG bracelets: “What would Peter do?” Mr. Banner also gave each staffer a DVD of the two-hour ABC tribute, “Peter Jennings: Reporter,” that was watched by nearly 9.5 million people.

It was just days after Mr. Jennings died Aug. 7 at age 67 that “I realized we were all saying it in the days after he died,” said Mr. Banner, who also presented LIVESTRONG bracelets to the staff after Mr. Jennings announced in April that he had been diagnosed with a fast-growing lung cancer and would immediately begin aggressive chemotherapy.

“To all of us, he had been such a constant presence that is felt much more deeply than I had expected,” Mr. Banner said.

Settling on the phrase “What would Peter do?” was easy for Mr. Banner, who said, “I wanted to do something that would remind us all of what he had helped us do for so long.”

“It was a phrase that was spoken and unspoken,” senior broadcast producer Tom Nagorski said. “I can hear it when I make the case for something. I assume that for a long, long time, we will be very, very mindful of doing the kind of work and the sorts of stories that would have been important to him.”

“People all carry his voice in their heads,” Mr. Nagorski said. “It was a very strong voice.”

Mr. Jennings and his distinctive voice also will be remembered Oct. 17 at New York’s Grand Hyatt at the Radio-Television News Directors Association Awards Dinner, at which Edward R. Murrow Awards for editorial excellence and the RTNDA/UNITY Awards celebrating diversity are handed out.

Like the Primetime Emmys on Monday, it will be a black-tie event. If you want to shine sartorially at either event, ask yourself: “What would Peter wear?”