Peter Jennings Remembered

Family members of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center wipe tears from their eyes during a memorial service commemorating the ninth anniversary of the attacks Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Chang W. Lee, Pool)
AP Photo/Chang W. Lee
This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
I learned late last week that Peter Jennings was near death, and for the last three days I have been thinking about what we as citizens and what we as colleagues and competitors have lost.

I remember first meeting him, trench coat in hand, in a far flung foreign airport — in Asia I think — in the late 1980s. Jennings was a citizen of the world. All of those years as a foreign correspondent provided him with a view of America and the planet that was unique to television news people; a view that served his viewers and journalism well.

For Jennings, a Canadian who became and American citizen just a few years ago, he was at once an outsider. Not easily cowed by the conventions or expectations of our culture, Jennings by birth had a little extra objectivity.

While he was the anchor of ABC's World News Tonight for more than 20 years, Jennings was — by choice and nature — a reporter first, which meant he was always hungry to see and cover a story firsthand. That's important because the truth of many a news story is wrapped up in its own history.

Jennings reported on an array of the world's history-making events, from Vietnam to the Middle East. So when Jennings asked a question, or focused on an area of coverage, it was because he knew firsthand the players involved. The issues. The stakes.

Peter Jennings was not afraid to speak truth to power. Over the years he was accused of having all kinds of biases but, as best I know, his only bias was to the truth as he experienced it.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith