Jennings celebrates 20 years as ABC anchor

Thursday, September 4, 2003

— Peter Jennings said he liked being in London, thousands of miles from his bosses, and never really wanted the job of sole anchor at ABC's "World News Tonight."

He's since grown quite accustomed to it, and hundreds of broadcast industry stars and executives turned out for a party at Manhattan's Lincoln Center on Tuesday to mark 20 years since Jennings began his current run as ABC's top anchor.

Walter Cronkite, Bill O'Reilly, Charlie Rose, Steve Kroft and Andy Rooney were there, and a round of taped accolades were sent by the likes of former President Gerald Ford, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

So did competitors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, who were both on the road -- Brokaw in California, Rather in Iraq.

"We'll go off to the old anchorman's nursing home sometime down the road together," said Brokaw, who also celebrates 20 years as NBC's top anchor this month. Brokaw, 63, is stepping down as nightly news anchor next year; Jennings, 65, has no plans to quit.

Lauren Bacall paid a winking tribute to Jennings' four marriages.

"You and 'World News Tonight' have been wed for 20 years," the actress said. "I'm so happy you're getting the hang of it."

But it was the retired Cronkite, who befriended Jennings when he first came to work as an ABC News reporter in the 1960s, who looked for an edge behind the tribute.

"Have they said anything about an extension of your contract?" Cronkite said.