I have avoided television news like the plague since the 2000 US general election. While the legal battle between then-Governor Bush and Vice President Gore was certainly excellent fodder for the talking heads, I grew very tired of hearing them analyze every single word uttered by anyone even remotely connected to the two sides. The venom that spewed forth from that debacle is still coursing through the veins of this country, and the partisan lapdogs who constitute the majority of the national news media are only too happy to contribute to that environment. It is precisely this brand of scorched earth journalism that Jon Stewart so successfully exposed on the now-defunct CNN show Crossfire. Stewart, incidentally, is a pompous ass who is entirely too satisfied with himself, but on that occasion he was dead on.
I temporarily lifted my boycott on network news last night and tuned into ABC’s World News Tonight, curious to see how they would handle the death of Peter Jennings. I was impressed. Granted, media figures or outlets need no arm-twisting to pay tribute to one of their own, but this particular one was quite well-done. Jennings, regardless of what one thinks of his world view or political take, conducted himself with a dignity that Dan Rather sorely lacked towards the end of his run on CBS.
There are certain figures who are taken for granted by the public, so much so that when they are gone it is only then that you feel that an era has passed as well. Johnny Carson was one of them, and so is Peter Jennings. I freely admit that I probably only watched a dozen or so of Jennings’ broadcasts over the years, but there was a certain level of subconscious comfort to be had knowing he was always there, night after night.
I’m sure there are plenty of commentators out there at this moment heaping scorn on Jennings for one reason or another. There’s probably plenty of dirt available for anyone who cares to look for it. I don’t care to. That’s exactly the type of behavior that prompted me to stop watching news in the first place.