Advertisements

Peter Jennings in the Field

This is another of the chapters we had to cut out of 

Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s 

“On the Frontlines of the Television War”

image

I suppose that it would be more accurate to refer to Peter Jennings as a colleague rather than one of my bosses but, when I joined the Saigon Bureau, he was the anchor of the Evening News and a strong voice in what made it to air. Since he was always knowledgeable and decisive, I’m going to add him to this chapter as one of the people I worked for. I certainly cared about his opinion and wanted to impress him.

Peter was born in 1938, the same year I was born, and when he took over the anchorman job in 1965, he was only 25 years old. For two and a half years, Peter was ABC’s leader as we went up against Walter Cronkite and the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

(Peter Jennings, Edward P. Morgan, Lou Cioffi and crew at 

Caravelle Hotel in 1966 ) 

image

Peter was the first anchorman to cover the Vietnam war in person. He came over with a team of cameramen and producers in the spring of 1966, just before I arrived. I remember a big black and white photo that used to hang in the newsroom at ABC in New York. It showed Peter and his crews posing on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel. He was the sort of anchor who would wear Lou Cioffi’s famous “correspondent suits” rather than a coat and tie. Peter wasn’t just a “pretty-boy” anchor, he was a good TV correspondent. All of the camera crews knew that he could talk off the top of his head about a story and get everything right. He was natural and comfortable in front of a camera, never stiff or worried.

In 1966, ABC was still only doing 15 minutes of news in black and white. I would watch the program when it would be sent back to us on kinescope with all of our news stories. There were clear differences between our program. Peter was still anchoring a fifteen minute, black and white ABC Evening News Show. Once every week at MACV briefing room, we can watch previous week’s our work that printed on kinescope. When I had the chance, I went to see feed back of all the Network’s reports. There were obvious differences between us and the other two shows: having only 15 minutes made covering a story extremely hard and the quality of the stories wasn’t as good as the competition. I heard that our nickname was the Almost Broadcasting Cooperation. Those of us in the field weren’t all that affected. I think that most of us, young, brash, and hard-working, thought that we could catch up and beat the others—it was just a matter of time. Anyway, what did we have to lose?

(Open and Close of Peter Jennings’ First Script from Vietnam) 

image

Former ABC Saigon bureau secretary Mrs. Hien Boase recalled her first impressions of Peter

I met Peter for the first time in 1966 in the ABC Saigon Bureau. He was a very good looking, charming and easy to get to know. Patrick Lett, a sound man, took a photo of a little girl who sold chewing gum in Catinat Street (Tu Do, now called Dong Khoi) . The child was skinny but she had a special pretty face. The first time Peter saw the photo he was so impressed and feeling sorry for the girl and wanted to help her and asked me to help find the girl. I had to enlist the Caravelle doorman and our drivers to look for her. It took me two weeks before Peter was to return to the States I was able to find the girl and take her to see Peter. Later, Peter sent money to help her go to school.

Miss Hien e-mail dated 2008/7/19

Many years later, whenever he covered wars and internal conflicts, Peter continued to get emotionally involved and never forgot the children who suffered the most in war. After Peter had left the anchorman’s seat, he became a foreign correspondent based in Rome and then the Middle East bureau chief based out of Lebanon. That, and his long-term stint as ABC’s anchor in London firmly established his credentials as one of the best broadcast journalists. Back in 1967, he was just another bright young reporter.

In the fall of 1971, the war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan was exploding and would eventually lead to the breakaway nation of Bangladesh. As the story heated up, Ron Miller, J.C. Malet and I were sent in to Calcutta to join Peter and his crew from Rome and Howard Tuckner and the Terry Khoo team. Peter flew in from Dacca, East Pakistan with good material but they were so exhausted that Ron Miller had to help type the scripts and Malet and I filmed Peter’s narration. It was fine on the first day but when we had to do the same thing the next day, it got a bit old. I had come to cover stories, not record sound tracks for some other crew.

(Peter in Vietnam circa 1966)

image

The third day, Malet and I were on a plane headed for Dacca with Peter. We’d been told that there would be a military ceremony to mark the end of the war and the formation of the new nation of Bangladesh. The Pakistani army officers and soldiers would have to lay down their arms and officially surrender to the Indian military, who had been supporting the Bangladeshis. It was a strange scene as the Indian general and his Pakistani counterpart had been classmates at the same military academy before Pakistan was partitioned off from India. Now, they’d fought each other. During the ceremony, the victorious Indian general treated the Pakistani with compassion and respect—especially when all his troops had to lay their weapons on the ground.

Peter was nearby and, after the ceremony was over, got the story from the Pakistani officers. I was going to roll on this but the Pakistanis wouldn’t speak on camera despite Peters best efforts. Finally, Peter felt sorry for them and told me to put my camera on the ground. Now that the story was over, he still had something to say to the losing general. “Next time, on a good occasion, please talk to me again. You fought well too. Good luck, sir.”

Peter said this in such a comforting and respectful tone that one of the officer’s tears came floating down his cheeks as a response. I thought it was a great scene, but my camera was on the ground. It was such a classy act of Peter. particularly since it wasn’t done for the camera.

It’s hard to ask questions of people who are suffering in a war or disaster. In Vietnam, I had had to do this on many occasions and the correspondents or reporters always asked the rather cruel question, “How do you feel?”

I knew it was a basic and necessary question, but I was always uncomfortable when I heard it being asked of people who were clearly suffering. It reminded me of how cold-blooded our business could be. However, regardless of how much I hated to hear these questions, I never took my lens out of the faces and made sure I caught the tears as they fell. In many ways, I was much more cruel than the reporters. I often wanted to leave people alone, like Peter had, but I very seldom did.

(Peter in Vietnam circa 1966)

image

The next day we were out on the war-torn streets of Dacca where, in the aftermath of a bloody war, ugly things were happening as the victorious militias took revenge on anyone who had supported Pakistan. There were beatings and torture and bodies could be seen everywhere—some with their hands tied behind their backs.

My soundman was a young man named Bill Blakemore who worked for ABC Radio out of Beirut. He had been a student at the American University of Beirut and later came back to teach there. He told me another story about how Peter handled himself in the Bangladesh war. On the street, Peter and the crew came upon a militia ground with a prisoner. The leader said, ”If you want take picture, I can kill him for you now”

Peter was very upset and immediately told his crew, “Put camera down, Don’t take any pictures! Let’s get out of here”

They turned around and left immediately. Peter was well aware of how cameras could provoke people into crazy, ugly, and cruel acts. Bill Blakemore was quite impressed at how Peter reacted and felt that he was not only a good journalist but a decent human being as well. Peter’s morals were high and he wouldn’t back down from them. AP photographers did shoot the carnage in Dacca and won a Pulitzer Prize for it.

(Peter and Tony work on a shot)

image

It was while we were in Dacca that Peter first asked me if he could be involved in what I filmed, looking through the viewfinder when the camera was on a tripod. I said that I would actually prefer it because I always shot with one eye closed so I needed many other eyes to let me know what was happening outside of the small picture in my lens. He told me that it was fun to work with me and ever since Bangladesh, it was like I had a Director of Photography when I was assigned to Peter since he would tell me when to zoom and when to get a wide shot. Some cameramen hate this and think it’s interference and micro-management but I enjoyed a team effort.

Of course, he was only allowed to look through the viewfinder. In those days, the union was very strict and no one but a cameraman could operate a camera.

Even though, it was only a two day trip, this young reporter made a huge impression on me. Years later, I was transferred to Europe and worked with Peter in trouble spots like Teheran, Beirut, Belfast, and many others.

Covering the war or conflict was often difficult and delicate and Peter managed to do it well. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Peter and part of the crew stayed at a kibbutz on the Israel side. Every day, we would drive across the border to East Beirut for a few hours while Peter did his reports. I asked him why he didn’t just stay in Beirut like the other correspondents and he told me that he was unpopular in both countries—the Israelis and the Lebanese would complain about his reports.

He asked me my opinion, and I said, “It’s a good sign that you’re reporting from the right position. You’re fair and not leaning towards either side. People are watching your report seriously. That’s why you were criticized by both side. It was a rather good remark that you’re a great journalist, I think.”

(Peter near Bien Hoa circa 1966 – courtesy Don North)

image

I was not completely sure he understood what I was trying to say to him.

When Peter was based in London as the chief foreign correspondent and overseas anchorman, he was still a heavy smoker but was always trying to stop or at least cut back. He would do this by not buying any cigarettes but then he usually ended up bumming smokes from other reporters or the crews. He finally did stop smoking but, during the emotional coverage of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, he began again. When he developed lung cancer, it took his life very quickly. I wrote him a “get well” note and said I regretted giving him cigarettes for so many years but he had already passed away before he received it.

I regret that I wasn’t able to get Peter’s thoughts and memories about Vietnam for this book. We were both working in New York so I always thought there would be plenty of time.

Sadly, there wasn’t.

Advertisements

So What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Diary of an Aesthete

A Spiritual and Artistic Pilgrimage Around the Globe

Chinese Numbers

Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals, contract

The Earth of Brain

Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals

Le Blog BlookUp

Imprimez et transformez vos contenus digitaux, blogs et réseaux sociaux, en magnifiques livres papier sur blookup.com

annotated audrey art

TUCSON ARTIST AND ILLUSTRATOR

Iridescentfox

There are no foxes here

Tamara Philip, Author

Where Love blossoms...

Adventures of an author's wife

Editor and publicist for my author wife Michelle McMurrie. Michelle is transgender and wrote her current books under her previous name of Michael Pugh.

Nostalgia Pie

Comfort food for the soul from a time when things were so much simpler...

Chris Brake Show Podcast

LIVE! Every Wednesday @ 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central on StrangeLabel.com

Mindy Ogg

Dreams and wishes are meant to come true.

WorldofHarley

Fun for the whole asylum!

Psych Circus

Enjoy, Learn, and Erase Stigma!

lorellepage

Reader-to-Writer

Globe Drifting

Global issues, travel, photography & fashion. Drifting across the globe; the world is my oyster, my oyster through a lens.

The Honking Goose

something to honk about

Blinginitwholesale produces wholesale rhinestone apparel and hot fix crystals

Customized bling shirts and rhinestone heat transfers

tylersculinary

Tylers culinary blog

The Chalk Outline

the blog home of mystery writer Jeff Markowitz

KURT★BRINDLEY

writing ★ producing ★ editing

Mik Mob's Music Mass

share YOUR favourite tunes with The Mob

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands that likes to Support Indie Authors.

terry73's Blog

A fine WordPress.com site

To Boldly Go

My mission to seek the Lord and to boldly go where He leads me

pgcps mess - Reform Sasscer without delay.

Fight corruption in PGCPS. Innovate, Change and Transform - Create Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

12 Week Weight Loss Course

Losing Weight & Looking Great!

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

Amanda Dyer

Founder & Creative Director at Maison by Amanda Dyer & Editor-in-Chief, Living 360 Magazine & Mompreneur 360 Magazine

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

Journal Edge

An online blog with highly informative, cheerful and inspirational articles for people who love travel to India with passion and make a different Lifestyle. Vikas Acharya is the founder and managing editor at Journal Edge Online Blog. Contact me to find out how I can help you create high-quality blog content, lead magnets, ebooks, and web copy for your business.

Art Attack

Discovering art in everything

What's Good?

Around the globe..

The Digital Inkwell

If poetry be the food for love, pen on.

Harga Timbangan

Dunia Timbangan,081280780615,081291999252,0216016259,Harga Timbangan,Harga Timbangan Duduk,Harga Timbangan Digital,Harga Timbangan Analitik,Harga Timbangan Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung,Harga Timbangan Duduk Digital,Harga Timbangan Duduk Manual,Harga Timbangan Lantai,Harga Timbangan Mekanik,Harga Timbangan Gantung Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Harga Timbangan Buah Digital,Harga Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Harga Timbangan Elektrik,Harga Timbangan Digital Gram,Harga Timbangan Gram,Timbangan Duduk,Timbnagan Manual,Timbangan Duduk Manual,Timbangan Analitik,Timbangan Laundry,Timbangan Mekanik,Timbangan Salter,Timbangan Nagata,Timbangan Cahaya Adil,Timbangan Quattro,Timbangan Sapi,Timbangan Ternak,Timbangan Adam,Analitycal Balnce,Moisture Balance,Timbangan Sn Timah,Timbangan Oc Timah,Timbangan Chq,Timbangan Matrix,Timbangan Acis,Timbangan Lantai,Timbangan Gantung,Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Timbangan Gantung Manual,Jual Timbangan,Timbangan Barang Digital,Timbangan Pemancingan,Timbangan Galatama,Timbangan Obat,Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Timbangan Lantai Digital,Timbangan Camry,Harga Timbangan Laundry,Harga Timbangan Beras,Harga Bandul Timbangan,Anak Timbangan,Batu Timbangan,Timbangan Daging,Timbangan Buah,Timbangan Sayur,Timbangan Barang,Timbangan Balance,Timbangan Floor Scale,Timbangan Counting,Timbangan Anti Air,Timbangan Water Proof,Timbangan Jarum,Timbangan Duduk Jarum

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

Strictly for the Birds

The portable world of Anna L. S. Miranda

d|gI+Al hEGeM0n ...d|g|Z|nE

Works of Thought... And Pictures of My Soul

Setsu Uzume

Speculative Fiction

Jobsdhamaka Blog

Job Interview Tips and Career Advices

LOVE AND OLIVES

Just a regular thirty-something-year-old trying to capture the essence of life in writing. Join me as I journey through the ups, the downs and the adventures in between.

Predictable in Her Unpredictability

Doing What Makes My Soul Shine