ABC News Peter Jennings passed away yesterday from lung cancer. I’ll reserve what I really think about him for another time. Instead let’s look at the institution of the network anchorman.
Until about 15 years ago when 24 hour news channels made inroads into the daily lives of Americans it was the Network Anchor that gave us our daily news. They brought the world into our living rooms and for 30 minutes a day we lived outside our communities.
When the Gulf War broke out in 1992 we watched it live on CNN, who gave us 24 hours of coverage a day. The simple half hour of information a day was simply not enough. It was truly the first step into the Information age.
This was also the first step to in fall of the Network Anchorman. As Cable News proliferated and news companies fought for attention amongst a crowd of others all saying the same things, one voice took it upon itself to deliver a "fair and balanced" view of the world. With the Internet came a man named Drudge brought us daily information that was not seen on our network newscasts and another named Rush started a movement of radio broadcasters who poignantly refuted the lines of the Anchorman.
Jennings was the last anchorman.
Of the big three he was the last to go. Dan Rather was embarrassed into retirement due and will forever live with the legacy of forged documents. Tom Brokaw announced his retirement over two years before retiring in late 2004 (as if we needed that much time to prepare ourselves for someone else reading a teleprompter out loud at 6:30 pm each night).
Jennings death elevates him to a level that even the revered Walter Cronkite hasn't reached. In dying the question is asked, "What else could he have done?" Much like Jimi Hendrix, Steve Prefontaine or Janis Jopplin, the perceived potential of the individual begins to overshadow the lifetime of achievements.
Over the next decade the network newsman will find himself less and less important. No longer will one anchor be the face of a network for decades at a time. In fact network news may go the way of Saturday morning cartoons.
And that was a truly sad moment!