PULLMAN, Wash. — Peter Jennings, anchor and senior editor of ABC News “World News Tonight,” was honored Wednesday (April 14) on the Washington State University campus with an Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcasting.
In receiving the award, Jennings said, “This is the pinnacle,” gesturing to his award, presented as part of the 30th Edward R. Murrow Symposium.
Jennings used current events as a springboard for comments to the standing-room-only crowd and received two standing ovations — once at the conclusion of his talk and again at the conclusion of a question-and-answer session.
Jennings said it is his dream for network newscasts to be a full hour and that the news be broadcast in primetime when the American people might be expected to watch. He also said that if he had control of programming he would create a weekly news program to summarize important developments of the week and put them in a larger context.
In discussing the proliferation of news and information sources during a press conference held with local media and student journalists earlier Wednesday, Jennings said, “It makes it easier in one respect for the public because there are so many more choices. I think it makes it harder for the public in some respects because we all get so much data every day that between data and information and understanding, getting context is pretty hard.”
At both the press conference and the evening question-and-answer period, Jennings was asked his opinion of corporate communication mergers. “It doesn’t behoove me to bite the hand that feeds me too hard,” Jennings said, “but it deserves to be bitten in some way. I think any of us who are journalists or editors have a pretty strong sense that more media in fewer hands has potential dangers.”
In talking to student journalists, Jennings also reflected on his recent visit to Iraq. “I spent one fascinating day at Baghdad University talking to kids roughly your age,” Jennings said. “There was this tremendous energy on the campus and tremendous ambiguity about America ‘… get out of our country, we can run things ourselves, but don’t go too soon because if you do all hell will break loose.’”
Jennings joined ABC News in 1964 and spent nearly 20 years as chief foreign correspondent and as the foreign desk anchor for “World News Tonight” before being named the network’s anchor and senior editor in 1983.
Edward R. Murrow, a 1930 graduate of Washington State College (now Washington State University), is regarded as broadcasting’s most illustrious journalist. The Edward R. Murrow Symposium began more than 30 years ago as a panel discussion and lecture series. In the 1990s, the faculty of the Murrow School began to recognize the achievements of top communication leaders.
Previous award-winners have included the late Daniel Pearl (2003), Sir Howard Stringer (2002), Daniel School (2002), Christiane Amanpour (2002), Bernard Shaw (2001), Ted Turner (2000), Keith Jackson (1999), Al Neuharth, (1999), Walter Cronkite (1998), Frank Blethen (1998) and Sam Donaldson (1997).