My Mentor: Charles Glass on Peter Jennings

The first time I ever saw Peter he was wearing a trench coat. It had belonged to his father, who was a venerated Canadian broadcaster. If you were going to make a film about a foreign correspondent you would cast Peter in that trench coat.

Peter was was the master of the substance of journalism and the form of broadcasting. He had the most beautiful broadcast voice you’ll ever hear. He had worked everywhere in the world, from covering the civil rights marches to the Vietnam War, to the Middle East wars, wars in Africa and the India-Pakistan war.

I was a graduate student in Beirut in 1972 when Peter offered me a job as a sound man. When the October war broke out in 1973 he made me co-ordinating producer of all Middle East coverage, which was ridiculous. I was 22 and I had no journalistic experience.

In 1983 when I left Newsweek and went to ABC, because the Beirut job was vacant, Peter coached me through the audition. He told me how to stand in front of the camera, how to speak to the camera and how to write scripts properly for television. He was master of it all.

He was ABC News’ golden boy, but he was a perfectionist and never quite satisfied. He couldn’t go to bed until his story had been broadcast and it was letter-perfect. It was only in later years that he began to take more time off and suddenly enjoy his life.

It’s tragic that that’s just when he got cancer.

He made the announcement in April last year and he died in August. It was one of the worst shocks that I have ever had. He was the person most American viewers turned to in a crisis because he was solid. At the memorials in New York and London lots of young journalists had stories of how he had helped them at one time or another.

Charles Glass’s The Tribes Triumphant has just been published by Harper Collins
Peter Jennings was ABC’s lead news anchor from 1983 to 2005.
Interview by Sophie Morris