The James Bond of Journalism
Although this is coming nearly two weeks after his death, it is never too late to pay tribute to a great journalist who made it his mission to educate america about the rest of the world. He was Canadian, but he did not use the excuse of being a foreigner to justify his ignorance about American issues when he first started. Instead, he self taught himself his trade. So many cannot believe he was a high school drop out because he delivered material worthy of 3 PhDs.
My first encounter with PJ was in my late elementary school years in Nigeria. I had asked 'Mother Agnes' (my Jewish-German-American godmother whom I am named after and never really met...another blog) to send me a copy of the New York Times and the local news. She told me the NY Times was too heavy to mail to Africa, so she sent me the front page, the international news page and the comic page, some clippings on news from Africa and Nigeria, some pages of the Charlotte Observer, and a VHS tape of World News with Peter Jennings on ABC. I was mesmerized by him, and because of the way he sounded I always thought he was british and I always thought ABC NEWS, like NTA news was the official American Government news. I really didn't think much about the tape, just that it was interesting, but then once in a while, his documentaries would come up on our local channels and i'll be like ' That's Peter Jennings' and I would watch, after fighting with my brothers who probably wanted to watch a cartoon or soccer. My dad also got excited too about news documentaries, I can hear him saying 'Pita Jaynins, you don't mean it?'
Then when I came to America in 1997, the very first thing I did was ask for that the TV be tuned to ABC news, and there he was, PJ welcoming me to yankee. My uncle was like 'Daz Pita Jaynins,' and I am like 'I know' and he is like 'How'd you hear about him' and ofcourse I tell him about the tape and he say something to the effect of "You don mean it?"....that line has gotta be an Igbo thing.. classic.
Since then, I have bene loyal to watching PJ and ABC news. If Peter Jennings did not report it, I would not take it seriously. He was so believable, genuine and calming. His documentaries were very thorough and educational, especially the ones he did overseas and on the Middle East. And during September 11, I was glued to watching him because he was real and you could tell the difference from other on air folks. On special situations like that, those ABC News Special Reports, I take a break from CNN, because it is a big deal to have PJ on the desk. I also regret the fact that I did not take advantage of certain things and opportunities to get to meet Peter; I could have just emailed him or got my old class mate, who was one of his news writers, to pass a letter or card along. I guess, like no one else, you never think something like this would happen so soon. I was just looking forward to ABC killing NBC and CBS with the ratings, that when I heard about his illness, and eventual death, I was torn and hurt. I'm also heavily saddened that he is not here to report on this current situation in Gaza, he would have made a killer documentary on the topic. I hope ABC news puts his documentaries on sale because I think I will be purchasing those. I don't know if there will be any other like him, so I might as well try to learn from the lesson notes he has left behind if I want to be amongst the best.
The 2 hour ABC documentary was appropriate, very fitting and almost moved me to tears. Now his name has been removed from the newscast, it just sounds so foreign...World News Tonight... No Peter Jennings? I am still trying to get used to it and it is going to be hard. Some of you must think that I am starnge, why does she like the news and the news people. Let me put it like this, these people are to me what 50 cents, Michael Jackson, Shaq and co are to many out there. When asked what I want to be in future I don't say I want to be like Mike, Jay Z or Beyonce, like you would hear many kids say. Television is a very powerful and influencing medium, it can impact people's lives positively and negatively, so watch what your kids watch. It can shape their future, just like watching Peter Jennings, and other journalists is helping shape mine.
Adieu PJ...guess God had a better contract for you to sign, and oh yeah... don't worry about me, I was taking notes from your lessons so i'll be good.