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CNN Larry King Live
Tribute to Peter Jennings
Aired August 08, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER JENNINGS, FORMER HOST, "ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT": Fidel Castro has proclaimed to the world...
This was my first story outside Saigon...
... as part of Iraq's Sunni...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who brought the world into millions of American homes each night for 22 years, lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday.
And now this broadcast news legend is remembered by three other broadcast news legends, including the two men who, for more than two decades, combined with Jennings to make up the big three of the network news, Dan Rather, the former CBS News anchor, and Tom Brokaw, the former "NBC Nightly News" anchor, plus Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings' friend and colleague for nearly 30 years at ABC News, where she became the first woman to co-host the network newscast.
They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Barbara Walters is with us in New York. Dan Rather is on assignment in Beirut. Tom Brokaw in McLeod, Montana.
This is way it looked on April 5th. Peter Jennings had not anchored the news that night, but he came on at the end of the program. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: I've been reminding my colleagues today, who have all been incredibly supportive, that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them. And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis.
I wonder if other men and women ask their doctors right away, "OK, Doc, when does the hair go?"
At any rate, that's it for now on "World News Tonight."
Have a good evening. I'm Peter Jennings. Thanks, and good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dan Rather, we can't say it was a surprise. But what was your first reaction when you heard the news?
DAN RATHER, FORMER ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": Larry, I know it may sound like an oxymoron. I was not surprised, but I was shocked.
Peter went so quickly. Just a snap of the fingers between the time he announced that he had lung cancer, and a particularly virulent form of cancer, until he died. It was just before midnight here in Beirut, where Peter was stationed for so long, and where he loved, and where he reported so well from the Middle East.
When the news came, I spent a couple of hours just sitting in the dark and thinking about him and his really remarkable career. And I came away saying to myself, you know, Peter, we should take a good look at him and his career and think about it, because he was so good. We're not likely to see his kind again any time soon.
KING: Tom Brokaw, where were you? What was your reaction?
TOM BROKAW, FORMER ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": I was here in Montana last night. And I got back to the house. And I had a call from ABC telling me that Peter had died.
I think I had the same reaction as Dan. I was not surprised, but it was a stunning -- I felt a part of my life passing before my eyes. I talked to Kayce earlier in the week. I knew that he'd a tough past last weekend, the weekend of his birthday.
I've had eight friends die from lung cancer. So when he first made that dramatic announcement on ABC that night, my heart stopped. I knew what he was in for.
But, again, I don't think anybody expected it to go this swiftly. It seems so unfair. But at the same time, as we've been saying today, Peter would want us all to remember, as well, that other American families are going through this every day and they don't get nearly the attention that Peter does. And maybe his case will bring more of a focus on lung cancer and, particularly, on the penalties and the hazards of smoking in America.
KING: And Barbara Walters, same for you, your reaction? Where were you?
BARBARA WALTERS, CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: I was in the country. We had known that this was a very bad week for Peter. But, you know, all of us at ABC kind of refused to think that Peter -- not kind of, we refused to think that Peter wouldn't be back.
Every night, it said "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings." It didn't say "World News Tonight" and then, you know, either Charlie Gibson or Elizabeth Vargas.
Peter was going to come back to us. And we never admitted to ourselves -- although I guess we knew that he wasn't going to come back.
I had my cell phone on. I was coming back from dinner. I don't usually keep my cell phone on. I hate it. It rang, and I picked it up and said, "Yes, David, I know." It was David Westin. And I figure, when he was calling me on that cell phone, Peter was gone.
I must say, by the way, that I think that David Westin, who is the president of ABC, has handled all of this with such grace and dignity for Peter. You know, there were no rumors. There were no "what if."
And on his birthday, Tom, which you talked about, there was a plane that flew over his house and it said "Happy" -- you know, with a trailer, you know, a streamer -- and it said "Happy Birthday, Peter, with love from all of us at 'World News Tonight.'"
KING: On a personal note, just a month ago I got a handwritten letter from Peter, saying he has the opportunity to watch us every night now, something keeping him at home, but he was continuing the fight.
What kind, Dan Rather, of adversary was he? Because he was a competitor.
RATHER: Oh, make no mistake, behind those leading-man looks, behind all of the homework -- Peter was so strong for preparation -- behind that smooth exterior as a broadcaster and great journalist, inside was a fierce competitor.
You never wanted to see Peter Jennings coming with a story that you were covering because he was so good. You know, someone who's as attractive as Peter, you know, quintessential look of an anchorperson, it sometimes is difficult -- and I think it was difficult in Peter's case -- to have people know where your heart is. And his heart was as a reporter.
And those of us who competed against him knew what a great -- and I used the word measured -- what a great reporter he was. And I didn't want to be in the same area code where Peter Jennings was working a story, because, for one thing, you could never sleep. When Peter was on a story -- and I would say especially here in the Middle East -- which he knew so well and he had it, in journalistic terms, wired, it was pretty hard to just stay in view of his taillights, never mind catch up with him or pass him.
KING: Tom Brokaw, what was it like for you to be opposite every night?
BROKAW: Well, I had the same experience. And dare say, competing against Dan was no walk in the park, either.
Peter said last year at one of the gatherings that the three of us were present at that he felt that the three of us had common values as reporters and that we'd all made each other better at what we did. And I thought there was an essential truth in that. I had come to that conclusion, as well. Another characteristic of Peter -- not only was he a top-flight reporter in his own right, but he attracted very good people. So you're going up against Peter, the captain of the team, but also this hall-of-fame gathering that he always managed to assemble to work around him.
It was very formidable, competing against Peter, and never more so than when Bosnia was going on, because he took ownership of that important story. And I not only admired him, but I envied what he did there and the personal commitment that he made to that and to so many stories.
KING: Barbara, here's what Peter said on this program when you announced that you were leaving "20/20." Here's what Peter Jennings said about Barbara Walters. Watch.
Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have it ready. We'll come back with it. In fact, we'll come back with a question for Barbara and pick up with it right after this break. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: ... on the back lot of the state capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi.
This was my first story outside Saigon, and I found out in a hurry...
Someone actually reached up and handed me a small piece of the wall that they had chipped away...
But there are 50 villages here. And there are more than 50,000 people homeless...
This is Peter Jennings, ABC News, Beirut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: Despite the emphasis on militarism today, most Egyptians' thoughts are not on war. They're on inflation...
Drive down any highway and this is what you'll see, Cuba's life blood, sugar cane...
The Romans appointed a 17-year-old Jewish boy to be their puppet governor here. His name was Herod Antipas. He was the son of King Herod the Great...
This is Peter Jennings, ABC news, in the Golan Heights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with our tribute to Peter Jennings. We'll be including your phone calls at the bottom of the hour. Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw with us.
And now, here is what Peter had to say about Barbara when he was on this program. We discussed her leaving "20/20." Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you make of Barbara Walters leaving "20/20"?
JENNINGS: I think Barbara Walters leaving anything is a loss. You know, Barbara is one of the hardest-working -- if you ask me to sum up Barbara -- many people do it in different ways -- I sum up Barbara as one of the hardest-working people I have ever met, who, however much she has done on television, is always relentlessly determined to get whatever story it is she is going to get.
And I have -- I don't think -- she and Diane Sawyer both, they are two of the hardest-working people I have ever known.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Your response to that, Barbara? And what was he like to work with?
WALTERS: Well, I could say exactly the same thing about Peter. Peter and I also competed a little bit for stories, certainly in the early days of the Middle East.
By the way, I just have to say, Larry, looking at -- people have been calling Peter a giant today. And having Tom and Dan on, these men are, were, and still are, Tom and Dan, the giants. I mean, when all three of these men were competing against each other, that is the great time for news. I wanted to be on with both of you tonight.
But as far as Peter was, he was relentless, as well. He was intellectually demanding of all of us. He made us do more homework than we sometimes wanted to do. He asked us questions sometimes just before we went on the air that we weren't able to answer, that we had to really think about.
And also, when you looked at those clips, Larry, Peter was a teacher. He just didn't want to give the news. He wanted people to understand what it meant, what the background was. He wanted children to understand. He did programs with little children. He was as much a teacher, in his way, as he was a reporter.
KING: We're going to replay two interviews that we did with him over the weekend.
Tom, we'll start with you in this go-round. Were you shocked to learn that, on 9/11, Peter went back to smoking? Tom, do you hear me all right?
BROKAW: Yes, I do. I didn't know that was for me. I was shocked to hear that. I carry around a little portable soapbox about smoking and the perils of it. And Peter -- I had forgotten about this -- but it was so much a characteristic of his personal life when I first knew him.
He always had a very expensive lighter with him. He did that with great dash. He had the cigarettes hidden away and the lighter hidden away somewhere in an inside pocket. But he was one of these glamorous, smoking foreign correspondents.
And then I did know that he'd given it up. I had no idea that he'd gone back. And when he announced it that night, I was surprised to hear that.
That was a difficult time, obviously, for all of us, 9/11. But for Peter to go back to smoking, however briefly, was surprising to me. Having said that, I'm not an authority of any kind, but I don't think it was that brief return to cigarettes that brought about his peril. The onset probably began a long time ago.
KING: Did you ever smoke, Dan?
RATHER: For a brief period, Larry, only. When I was in my teens, I thought I was an athlete. And through college, I tried and failed to be an athlete.
But in the brief and undistinguished time I was in U.S. Marines, they have a phrase, "the smoking lamp is lit." It's an old sea-going phrase. And I smoked a little bit in the Marine Corps, but never really got hooked, for which I'm very thankful.
You mentioned Peter took up smoking again after 9/11. I did know that. Didn't say anything to him, just gave him one of those looks.
But it reminds me, Larry -- and it would be remiss if we don't say it -- that Peter had a lot of great moments, really remarkable times as a reporter, but he was at his absolute best, he was at the peak of his career and performance in the minutes, and hours, and days following 9/11, particularly the morning when the two planes struck the Twin Towers. Peter's performance, along with everybody at ABC, including Barbara, was nothing short of just magnificent.
KING: Tom, would you agree? Because you were all on opposite each other.
BROKAW: You know, I do. I think that the role of the anchor that day -- if I can remove us personally from all of this -- was critically important. And Dan, and Peter, and I have talked about this.
I don't know whether we had any formal agreement, Dan, but I think that intuitively that we understood it that took everything that we had learned in our personal and professional lives and at the age that we were that day, to get through those difficult hours.
I remember going home that night and thinking, "I would not have wanted to do this 20 years ago. I would not have been prepared for it." And Peter talked about that, I think, on your broadcast, in 2003, that 35 years of experience that he brought to that anchor desk, as a correspondent, when the country needed to be knitted together, was extremely useful to him.
And so there are times in America when the old cliche about television as America's hearth, the electronic fireplace around which we gather, that was never more important or true than it was on 9/11.
And I felt that, not just in my role as an anchor at NBC News, but when I had a chance to take a peek at what Dan was doing or what Peter was doing, I felt a real surge of pride in our profession and the place of electronic journalism in the lives of America, because everybody had a common opportunity to get the same information at the same time.
KING: We'll be right back with more. We'll be including your calls, as well. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: For me, there was one very tough moment in the middle of the day. I turned around and on the desk behind me there was a message from my children just saying they had called, my son's at school in California, my daughter at school at Massachusetts.
And I just -- I just lost it. In fact, I even lose it sometimes telling the story. And I turned around to audience and I said, now, we've all got to talk to our children. We must talk -- we must call your children.
I checked in with my children, who were deeply distressed, as I think young people are across the United States. And so, if you're parent, you have got a kid in some other part of the country, call them up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did you ever smoke?
JENNINGS: Sure, like a chimney.
KING: Every reporter.
JENNINGS: Like a chimney. I got so nervous -- my kids, when they were about -- I quit about eight years ago. My kids were on my case to quick. I thought I would have a terrible time. Every time I went near a typewriter, I was saying, I can't work without a cigarette.
KING: It's easy, isn't it?
JENNINGS: Some of the best pictures of me as -- and on the 25th anniversary landing on the moon -- thank God you don't have that one here -- there I am sitting...
KING: Smoking? JENNINGS: ... doing the graveyard shift in a sports jacket, which would embarrass me now, with my sideburns down here and a cigarette in my hand, on television.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Just watching him, Barbara Walters, what a wonderful anecdote-teller he was, wasn't he?
WALTERS: Yes. You know, I want to say something about the smoking, because Tom and Dan, you know, talked about being surprised that he smoked.
What Peter thought that he had -- it never occurred to him in the beginning that he could have lung cancer. He didn't associate it at all with his smoking. He thought he had the flu.
And when he first heard that he had lung cancer, it was already very serious. And it was a day or two after he was told by the doctors that he went on the air. And you could hear the rasping in his voice. And he never did get his voice back.
We were reassured today, because Dr. Timothy Johnson, who is the medical editor at ABC, is so close -- I have to start talking in the past tense -- was so close to Peter. And he did reassure that everything that could have been done for Peter was done.
But he was shocked and amazed that he had lung cancer. And I think did feel that he was going to lick it.
KING: What's it going to be like, Dan? It happened to you, of course, Walter didn't pass away, thank heavens, for the person, if Charles Gibson doesn't want to do double work, who's going to take that chair?
RATHER: I have no idea. I'm told, and I believe, fair to say I know, that this came as such a shock to everyone at ABC News the swiftness with which Peter went.
Yes, they all knew that he had lung cancer, but as Barbara said so eloquently, not just at ABC, all of us that knew Peter knew of his determination. And I thought he'd beat it. And everybody at ABC thought he would beat it and operated under that premise.
So I have no idea. It leaves a tremendous hole, not just at ABC News. They'll fill it. They have a lot of wonderful people. If Charlie Gibson doesn't do it, they've got a lot of people that can do it.
But it leaves a hole, not just at ABC News, but in American journalism, because Peter was such a champion for strong integrity- filled international reporting. While I was competitor of Peter's and he was a daunting competitor, I was also a friend of his, I'm proud and honored to say. And I miss him, and I'll miss him.
But I think that the news and people who depended on Peter, the millions of people who depended on him to bring the news, will miss him even more. It's not going to be a case of just a difficult thing for ABC to fill that anchor seat. It's going to be a long while before we reach the point where we say, well, we're near back to normal.
You can't lose a journalist of Peter's ability, and experience, and standing, and expect things to just go on. I haven't said it as well as I'd hoped, but, you know, he's really going to be missed for who he was and what he stood for.
KING: Tom Brokaw, what is going to be like, do you think, for the person who gets that seat?
BROKAW: Oh, I think that they'll go through what Dan, Peter and I did. They'll get very critically examined by the people who write about television. There will be folks who will say they're not up to a man or woman.
I'm not sure who the choices are. They've got a lot of great choices at ABC, as Dan has indicated. I was just sitting here thinking about Bob Woodruff, for example, who's an ABC correspondent, just got back from North Korea. That's very much in the Peter Jennings tradition.
Here's a guy who speaks Chinese. He was a lawyer in China. He's out of the old school. So they've got a lot of -- Elizabeth Vargas has done a wonderful job sitting in. And no one is better, unfortunately, on the air than Charlie Gibson.
So there are people out there. We ought not to be saying that, because our generation is now passing on in a variety of ways, that there aren't really dedicated, young professionals coming along, men and women, who are eager to take on those roles and to push the envelope the same way that Peter did.
I think Peter would also want us to say we have to be careful that we not lionize ourselves too much here. We worked very hard. We got things wrong from time to time. We missed some big stories. Peter had his share of triumphs. Dan certainly had his share. I had one or two along the way.
But if we could go back and review the score card, I think there are probably some things that we'd like to do again. By the way, what we see coming on here is a little nor'wester out here in Montana, and may even get rained on. But if it happens, that will be good news for this state, Larry.
KING: And in typical news fashion, Brokaw will carry on.
Is there any buzz, Barbara, at ABC News, or is it too soon?
WALTERS: Well, you know, we haven't done that and we don't want to do that. There's not going to be, I wouldn't think, a decision made in the next days or weeks. I think it will take some time.
And in the meantime, you know, probably Charlie and Elizabeth will continue to do it. None of us want to think about that now. At some point, it will have to be decided. But we're just not in that -- we're not in that frame of mind yet.
KING: I understand. Is it true, Barbara, that Peter called in every morning and checked on what they were doing?
WALTERS: Well, he didn't call in everyday, but he called in very often. And he came in one day. It was very touching.
He came in and he sat, you know, around the rim. He had already lost so much weight. And then he went up to David Westin's office. It was the one time that he did come in. I mean, he'd been calling and saying, "This story belongs here," you know, "You should lead with that."
So I went up to David's office to see him. And I was a little shocked to see how thin he was. And I wanted to make him laugh and I told him the one dirty joke I knew and then -- which I will not tell. And then I would e-mail him and say, "You know, let me know when I should come, you know. I'll learn another joke."
And one of the things that Kayce told us -- and Kayce, his wife, is one of our producers, one of my producers on "20/20," and she's a remarkable woman. Oh, looking at that picture, she was beautiful. And it was such a love affair.
But she said that Peter was overwhelmed, in the best possible way, by the people who wrote to him and tried to get in touch with him, that it sustained him. My dirty joke didn't, but the love of these people did.
And I think -- we talk about how we're going to miss him? There are people who depended on him and loved him, and they're going to feel very lost for a while.
KING: We're going to take break and see what you think. We'll go to your phone calls right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each night, he chronicled the events of our lives. But he was far more than just a news anchor.
JENNINGS: It could take a very long time before Canitra (ph) resembles anything like its former self.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the consummate reporter.
JENNINGS: This will count as one of the worst attacks since this war began. And what makes Sarajevans so angry at this point is that high overhead all morning, American fighter planes had been circling. Sarajevans wish those fighter planes would drive the Serbs from the gun positions, which dominate this town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His final trips overseas to Iraq point up his extraordinary gifts as a foreign correspondent. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us in New York is Barbara Walters, the former co- host and chief correspondent of "20/20," co-host of "The View." Joined ABC News in 1976, is the first woman to co-host the network news, and continues as an active member of ABC News, hosting specials.
In Beirut, Lebanon, is Dan Rather, former anchor and managing editor for "CBS Evening News." He anchored the last broadcast on March 9, 2005. He is a correspondent, of course, for "60 Minutes."
And in McLeod, Montana, Tom Brokaw, former anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw." Anchored the last broadcast on December 1, 2004, and he continues with NBC for the next 10 years, reporting and producing.
And we're going to go to your calls. Greenfield, Massachusetts. Hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry. And thank you.
KING: Hi. Sure.
CALLER: I would like to ask your guests, Barbara just touched on it briefly, but I would like to ask you or your guests about Peter's personal family, his widow, any children, and anything without infringing on his privacy that they can discuss with that.
WALTERS: Well, his wife is named Kayce Freed. As I said, she was a producer. Peter had two children, daughter Elizabeth, 25, who had come back from Africa -- Peter was very proud of the fact that she was working there -- to be with her father. And a son, Christopher, I think who is 23, who had just graduated from graduate school with honors. And one of the heartbreaks of Peter's life recently was that he couldn't be there for the graduation.
These were children by a previous wife, who was a wonderful journalist herself, named Kati Marton. And she and Peter, you know, divorce is never easy, but she and Peter certainly in these last months became very close...
WALTERS: ... and only remembered the best of their marriage.
Peter was extremely proud of his children and very happy with Kayce, who took care of him, who protected him, who was just mad about him. And I ache, you know, thinking of what this is going to be like for Kayce.
KING: His first wife is married to whom now?
WALTERS: Kati? Marton?
WALTERS: She's married to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
KING: Right. To Toronto, Canada. Hello.
CALLER: Oh, hi. Thanks for dedicating a full hour to remembering Peter Jennings. In Canada, we're really proud of other Canadians who succeed. And as a communications student, we studied Peter Jennings in university. So I'm wondering from four iconic journalists, if there is anything that you learned from him the way that we did in school?
KING: Dan, what can you say you learned from Peter Jennings as a contemporary?
RATHER: I learned so much. Well, I learned so much from Peter. You know, Peter was a -- he wasn't a reader, he was a leader. And one of the things I learned from Peter when he came into the anchor chair -- he first came to anchor "World News Tonight," there were multi- anchors, including the late Frank Reynolds, but then he came into the anchor chair to anchor alone.
And Peter was such a strong leader. I learned from that -- that it's one thing to be a good field reporter, be a good traveling anchor; it's another thing to lead an organization.
Another thing I learned from Peter is the -- he was a good example of the need, when necessary, to talk back. I think Barbara will agree that Peter had -- he didn't fear talking up to his bosses when he thought they were wrong. And he was a leader in that sense.
Also, you know, I thought I was a strong homework kid, but watching Peter, who, because he had not gone to college -- and I mean this with great respect -- I think through some of the years, the early years, he was a little defensive about that. But he self- educated himself to such point that I've described him as a scholar correspondent, and indeed he was.
And one of the things I learned from Peter is that, you know, what a lot of people call luck is where preparation meets opportunity. That's luck. And Peter was so strong, he came to every story so well prepared. I learned that from him as well.
But perhaps more than any other thing, Larry -- and you can't talk about Peter Jennings without talking about his courage. This guy had guts. In the Hemingway sense, that the definition of courage is grace under pressure. Peter's whole career radiated that. You know, on the air, he was certainly gracious as well as knowledgeable presence. In life, off the air, he was unfailingly gracious.
And in these last weeks and months of his life, whatever your definition of courage, Peter was a golden example of it in this last fight.
KING: Well said. What did you learn, Tom?
BROKAW: Well, one of the things I always admired about Peter was that he had strong opinions about everything that was going on around him in his life, in my life, and the lives of his children, and it always made him interesting. And you could challenge him on those opinions, and sometimes we kind of butted heads about stuff, but we always managed to work it out.
Plus, his passions spilled on -- over beyond his professional credentials. He loved being a journalist, obviously, but he also loved living in New York and having a cosmopolitan live. He was on the board on Carnegie Hall, for example. And he took a night off last fall from "World News Tonight" so that he could do the radio broadcast of a big benefit concert there. And when I saw him afterward, he was like a small boy who had just hit the winning home run in the World Series. He was bouncing around the Waldorf ballroom in his tuxedo. He could not have been happier than he was that night.
Peter brought to whatever endeavor in which he was involved this exceptional passion and enthusiasm and excitement, not all of which the rest of us necessarily shared, but that didn't deter him.
KING: And a great, great hockey fan to boot.
We'll come right back with more calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC, this is "World News Tonight," with Max Robinson in Chicago, Peter Jennings in London, Barbara Walters' special reports, and tonight, a comment from Howard K. Smith. And from our Washington desk, Frank Reynolds.
FRANK REYNOLDS, ABC ANCHOR: Here is Peter Jennings in London.
JENNINGS: Frank, the man you're referring to went on trial in the Soviet Union today, in a case that's almost certain to further strain Soviet-American relations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: How much longer do you want to be doing what you do?
JENNINGS: You mean sitting here in a dark room talking to you rather than seeing you in person?
KING: Anchoring the news, doing specials, traveling the world.
JENNINGS: Well, I think I'll never stop traveling the world. I -- you know, I love it. I love it. I love it. You know that well. I -- there comes a time when doing a daily broadcast is perhaps not as rewarding as it is to me now.
You can see by my excitement that I love doing these specials and I'm deeply grateful to ABC that I'm one of the few people that has the opportunity to do them. And I don't think that will end whether I'm working at ABC or anywhere else. But I love the fact that ABC supports them and so, I'd have to say at the moment I'm a pretty happy fellow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Major statements issued today from former President Bill Clinton and former President Gerald Ford and from the current President George Bush as well.
Arlington, Virginia. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I just want to say first of all, that I loved Peter. I grew up getting all sorts of events from him. And my question for the panel is, what do you think the future holds for the three networks in terms of their nightly newscasts?
WALTERS: I want to -- can I just say something else, because you asked both Tom and Dan what they learned from Peter. And I worked with Peter so often. Can I just say -- and then I'll answer the question -- if I can, a couple of things about what I learned?
I learned to shut up sometimes. Peter was intellectually very demanding and when he did a broadcast, he ran that broadcast. He told us when to come on, when to talk, when we couldn't. He was very strong and he wanted to make it the best possible broadcast.
I'm saying this now because there was that side of Peter and Peter would hate if we just talked about him as if he were a saint. He didn't have that kind of vanity, but he did have that kind of opinion and boy, sometimes when you wanted to get a word in you had to fight and Peter and I did occasionally.
Maybe one shouldn't say this at this time, but he was our boss and when he was on the air, he ran it and he was the best. So, I forgive him every time he wouldn't let me butt in. OK. OK, Peter.
WALTERS: Now, The future of news?
KING: Yes. I want all of you give me a quick comment. Barbara, you first.
WALTERS: Well, I think the -- I think news has changed a great deal. I mean, we all know that, there are cable stations now. There are so many different ways of getting news. The morning programs are much more important than they used to be. You used to go from the morning program to prime-time.
I left 13 years of doing the "Today" show to go into prime-time when I came to ABC and I think that there will be changes. I think we'll have to attract a younger audience. The average age of the audience for the evening news programs is much older, it's 55 or 60. We have the Internet to combat with. I think there are going to be a lot of changes, but I do not think that it's going to be the end of network news.
RATHER: I'm bullish on the future of network news. Look, some -- one of the big three, maybe more, may get out of it, but I doubt it. One reason I am is something we touched on in this broadcast earlier, that there is so many good idealistic, hard-charging young people in the business.
Bob Woodruff, Elizabeth Vargas at ABC; Scott Pelley, John Roberts, Mika Brzezinski at CBS; Brian Williams at NBC. I think the future is bright and it's not just a Cassandra sort of "oh, well things are going to be wonderful," but a lot depends, Larry, on whether the owners, the top people of these conglomerates that own the news operations, have a -- how high is their sense of public service?
If it's as good as I think it is and will remain, then I think the predictions about the death of network news are far premature. I'm very bullish on the future.
KING: I want to get a break, because I have to get one here and then I'll ask Tom the same question. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.
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GIBSON: So, too, was he an exacting editor. We who appeared on his broadcast were prepped with questions. Clarity was demanded. Seldom would a report air on "World News Tonight" that had not been subjected to Peter's critical eye.
JENNINGS: I get up every day, thinking that something is going to happen in the world that I didn't know about yesterday and I have the opportunity to pass some of that on to the audience.
GIBSON: He was tough on us, tougher on himself and he would not miss a big story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: Earlier today, they got together in one of the back rooms here at the O'Keefe Center and voted among themselves to choose what we call Miss Congeniality. The young lady from among them, who they consider to be the most helpful, the most gracious and the most delightful to be with this week.
And I have the envelope containing the name of Miss Congeniality and I could not agree more. Ladies and gentlemen, from Sudbury, Ontario, Heather Dorin (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You've come along way, baby. Tom Brokaw, future of network news?
BROKAW: Well, I -- Dan and I talked about this a lot. I have strong feelings. I have not been able to persuade my network masters that this is the way to go, but with all this emphasis on reality shows, there is no greater reality than the daily news and the stories that we can develop. I'd expand it, move it later into prime-time, and I would marry it to the Internet. I think that we are treating these two medium -- two media as separate entities, and what we really ought to do is connect them, so that we can see more of the Internet and have more connectivity, if you will, between over-the-air television and the fascinating new, almost infinite universe of the Internet. But I'm not holding my breath.
KING: York, Pennsylvania, hello?
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Yes, I wanted to ask whether the guests think the fact that Peter was Canadian gave him a skepticism about the American government that to me is sorely lacking in the mainstream press? And skepticism I think was very absent during the run-up to the Iraq war, and that lack of scrutiny, I think, has had terrible consequences.
RATHER: Well, it's certainly true, you know, Peter was very proud of becoming a U.S. citizen. It gave him great joy. But he was Canadian in his marrow, in his DNA, and he spent all of his early life there. And it did give him a different perspective.
Now, reporters, all of us, try very hard not to succumb to cynicism, but to be skeptical -- and caller used the word Peter was skeptical, and indeed he was. And he did bring a different perspective to it, which I think was valuable, particularly when it came to U.S. political and other domestic affairs.
I think it was an asset to him. In the very beginning, he got some criticism about it, but he overcame it very quickly by being such a hard worker, and dedicating himself to what he saw as his mission. But it was a help.
KING: Barbara, you agree?
WALTERS: I do, I agree very much with what Dan said. You know, he really loved and -- Canada. He became an American citizen just last year, but he took his kids to Canada every year. His sister, beautiful sister Sarah was with us today and with Peter when he died, and she went back to Ottawa. Canada was always so much a part of his life.
Peter questioned -- it wasn't that he was skeptical, but he wasn't afraid to question things. You ran a little clip in which -- in which they said Peter was tough on himself and tough on all of us. He questioned almost everything. And, as Tom pointed out, he had his opinions as well. He wasn't just someone who came in -- and neither of these two men are either -- who came in, and you know, and read from a TelePrompTer. And Peter was essentially a teacher. And in order to be a good teacher, you have to question, and that can lead to skepticism.
KING: And anyone who knew him, Tom, knew he was skeptical, wasn't he?
BROKAW: He was skeptical, but he wasn't a cynic. There was a beat in the heart of Peter Jennings, this great enthusiasm for his adopted land of America. Someone said -- I know this is an essential truth about Peter -- he was the quintessential American story, because he was the immigrant story. He came here from Canada. It took him a while to get his citizenship, and I never blamed him for that, by the way. I thought he had every right to have pride in his Canadian nationalism, and journalists should be able to transcend their nationalistic roots in reporting stories. So I thought some of the criticism was extremely unfair.
When he became a citizen, he wholeheartedly embraced this country and all of its virtues. He talked in Philadelphia when Justice Scalia was on the panel with him, about the great strengths of America.
And what I loved watching Peter do was discover the rest of the country that he didn't know much about. He came out here to the American West a couple of years ago, and came back, called me up right away, and talked about the contentious issue of the reintroduction of wolves, and what it's like to be a cattle rancher in a remote part of Idaho, and the environment. Because he'd spent much of his life either in Europe or the Middle East, or on the Eastern Seaboard. But when he found the rest of the country, he did so with great exuberance.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments of this tribute to Peter Jennings. Don't go away.
KING: Going to get another call here. Panama City, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. I would like to ask your guests, where did Peter's real passion lie? Was it being in the field as a reporter, or was it anchoring the news? He did a great job in both areas.
BROKAW: I think he always considered himself a reporter first, who got lucky and was extremely well paid to be an anchor. And I happen to think immodestly that Dan, Peter and I redefined the role of American anchors, helped along by technology. And Peter was right out there at the front of that parade, always getting to work as a reporter, and then at the end of the day, going off to become an anchor, sometimes in the middle of the night in remote locations, but that was the title that he cherished most. And it was the bond between the three of us that we talked about over the course of the last year, that this is what we really loved about our jobs, and Peter most of all.
KING: Only have about 15 seconds left. Dan, what would you say to -- want to say good night to Peter? What would you say to him?
RATHER: Well done. As Peter said to his adopted son, Timothy, you've finished the race, you've fought the good fight, you've kept the faith. Well done, friend Peter. Well done.
WALTERS: I think of two things, what his wife Kayce said. She said, Peter died in peace and no pain, with his family around him, and he knew he had a good life -- the kind of understatement that Peter would understand. And then I think of what President Bush said. I was very touched when he -- after he paid his tribute to Peter, he said, God bless your soul. God bless you, Peter, and God bless your wonderful family.
KING: And, Tom, quickly, you want to say something?
BROKAW: I do. Peter was Peter Jennings to the very end. He showed great courage. He showed great resolve. And he showed great love for his family and for his colleagues. And that, too, is an important part of his legacy. He was Peter Jennings right to the end, no whining.
KING: Thank you all very much. Tomorrow, more on Peter with Bob Schieffer, Bernard Shaw and Dr. Derek Raghavan, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Cancer Center.
Aaron Brown was a close friend of Peter Jennings. He's next with NEWSNIGHT. Aaron, I know it's a tough day for you.
AARON BROWN, HOST, NEWSNIGHT: Yeah. A tough day around here. And thank you, Larry.
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