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ABC News: Peter Jennings Has Lung Cancer

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK - Peter Jennings, the chief ABC News anchorman for more than 20 years, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and will begin outpatient treatment next week, the network said Tuesday.

Jennings, 66, told ABC News staff members of his diagnosis Tuesday morning and said he will continue to anchor the broadcast when he feels up to it as he begins chemotherapy.

He last anchored "World News Tonight" Friday and was too ill to work Saturday during the network's special report on Pope John Paul II's death. "There will be good days and bad, which means some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky," he told ABC News employees in an e-mail.

Charles Gibson, who's in Rome for the pope's funeral, and Elizabeth Vargas will be Jennings' primary substitutes on the evening news.

Jennings is the last of the anchor troika that dominated broadcast network news divisions over the last two decades. NBC's Tom Brokaw stepped down last year and CBS's Dan Rather left the evening news last month.

A former foreign correspondent based in Rome and London, the urbane Jennings and "World News Tonight" dominated the ratings during the late 1980s and early 1990s, before being surpassed by Brokaw. His broadcast is now a close second to NBC's "Nightly News" with Brian Williams.

He has been feeling ill for the past several months. Following the tsunami in December, he did not travel to the stricken region, with ABC explaining at the time that he had an upper respiratory infection and was under doctor's orders not to travel. He did go to Iraq in January for the elections.

Jennings is a former smoker who gave up the habit several years ago, the network said. He anchored ABC's evening newscast for two years in the 1960s, then joined a multi-anchor format in 1978. ABC abandoned the approach in 1983 after Frank Reynolds died of cancer and Jennings has been the sole anchor since then.

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Guest ranster627

I watched a long show on Peter Jennings and "lung cancer" and celebrities on Larry King last night ...

It was a tough one to watch I will say, and IMHO they have Jennings written off before he starts his battle ... I think it is distasteful really!

While they sent their best wishes to him, the format gave me the feeling of being at a memorial service ... I am all for "reality" and facts, but I found it hard to take. Could be that I am a real Jennings fan ... a man of real "class"!

Following that, Aaron Brown gave a wonderful sentiment on Newsnight, with a personal touch that felt sincere! ... and upbeat, but not unreal!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Jennings Writes Note of Thanks to Viewers

NEW YORK - Peter Jennings, undergoing treatment for lung cancer, wrote a letter to viewers saying their "anecdotes, mementoes, home recipes and general all-purpose guidance and concern have all been so deeply appreciated."

Jennings announced on April 5 that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Although ABC News colleagues said he's been involved shaping "World News Tonight" by phone and e-mail, he hasn't appeared on the air since. "Yesterday I decided to go to the office," Jennings wrote. "I live only a few blocks away. I got as far as the bedroom door. Chemo strikes. "Do I detect a knowing but sympathetic smile on many of your faces? You knew this was coming."

He said Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), who has undergone chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, wrote a note saying the only way to get through therapy is to work your way through it. "He's a tougher man than I am," he said.

Jennings said a woman at work showed up at his home recently to show him "that bald really is beautiful." Another time, leaving the hospital, a woman approached him and said, "Me, too. Lung cancer."

"Instinctively, immediately, we gave each other a hug, a real hug," he wrote, "and we went on our respective ways knowing that we had been strengthened by the connection."

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