Jennings Anchors Despite Cancer

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ABC News said Tuesday that World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Jennings will begin out-patient chemotherapy treatment in New York next week and plans to continue broadcasting through his treatment, subject to his health.

Jennings told the World News Tonight staff of his condition before Monday’s broadcast.

“There will be good days and bad, which means that some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky!,” Jennings said in an email to colleagues. “Almost 10 million Americans are living with cancer. I am sure I will learn from them how to cope with the facts of life that none of us anticipated.”

ABC News says that Charlie Gibson, Elizabeth Vargas and others will substitute for Jennings when he does not feel well enough to anchor. In an email to staffers, division President David Westin said ABC News will support Jennings’ through his treatment and recovery.  

“All of us at ABC News have watched over the years as Peter has led us on various assignments with strength and with courage.  We’ve done our best to support him in these endeavors,” Westin sad.  “Now, Peter’s been given a tough assignment.”

Jennings did not anchor several days last week and canceled an appearance at a TV industry event last Thursday. The network said he had a cold.

Jennings did not anchor ABC’s coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II Saturday. Bob Woodruff anchored instead with George Stephanopoulos in Rome.  

Jennings is a former smoker, though the gave up the habit years ago. Jennings' ABC bio being circulated by the network Tuesday cited smoking as one of the issues Jennings had focused on in his reporting career. Just last September, Jennings did an hour prime time special on the "betrayal and neglect" of the tobacco companies and some public health agencies who didn't fight for anti-tobacco legislation when they had the chance.

Jennings was planning to anchor the broadcast Tuesday night, but decided late in the day his voice was not up to it.  Elizabeth Vargas subbed, but Jennings plans to anchor the broadcast when he feels his voice is stronger.

Jennings did tape an "End Note" for the broadcast addressing today’s announcement about his health.  The following is the text of that note:

"Finally this evening, a brief note about change. Some of you noticed in the last several days that I was not covering the Pope. While my colleagues at ABC did a superb job, I did think a few times I was missing out.

"However, as some of you now know, I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. Yes, I was a smoker until about 20 years ago, and I was weak and I smoked over 9/11. But whatever the reason, the news does slow you down a bit.

"I have been reminding my colleagues today – who have all been incredibly supportive – that almost 10 million Americans are already living with cancer, and I have a lot to learn from them. "And living is the key word. The National Cancer Institute says that we are survivors from the moment of diagnosis. I will continue to do the broadcast, on good days my voice will not always be like this. Certainly, it’s been a long time – and I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn’t value – deeply – the audience’s loyalty should be in another line of work.

"To be perfectly honest, I am a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people. That’s not intended as false modesty. But even I was taken aback by how far and how fast news travels.

"Finally, I wonder if other men and woman ask their doctors right away - OK, Doc, when does the hair go? At any rate, that’s it for now on World News Tonight.

"Have a good evening. I’m Peter Jennings. Thanks and goodnight. "


ABC has a section on its Web site for well wishers to post comments, ttp://forums.go.com/abcnews/WNT/forum?start=0&forumID=9&byThread=true

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