Pierre Thomas on Peter Jennings: ‘He Was a Master Journalist’

By Brian Flood 

ABC News senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas will be honored at the Radio Television Digital News Association‘s Excellence in Journalism award on Saturday. The veteran ABC Newser–he joined in 2000–has been a part of ABC’s Peabody, duPont, Murrow, and Emmy award-winning coverage for some of the nation’s biggest news stories of the last 15 years. We caught up with Thomas to discuss what he learned from the late ABC Newsman Peter Jennings, his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and even his favorite place to grab a burger.

TVNewser: You worked with the legendary Peter Jennings, specifically on Award-winning 9/11 coverage. What is the most valuable thing you learned from Jennings?

Thomas: Peter was a very exacting correspondent and anchor. As the 9/11 horror unfolded, he urged aggressive reporting, but made clear that, first and foremost, he wanted accuracy. In such a critical moment, it was very affirming and reassuring that everyone at ABC News was on the same page.  I happened to be in New York City on that fateful day and sitting on the set with Peter Jennings is something etched in my memory. He was a master journalist. There was a moment in particular I will never forget. As one of the towers came down, with the world watching—Peter had the presence of mind to raise his hand—so that no one would talk as this horrible tragedy played out. In an instant, he knew: there were no words.

TVNewser: Congrats on winning the RTDNA 2015 John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award. What does wining this award mean to you?

Thomas: I am humbled for sure. I hope it means I have contributed some work of value in important moments and practiced the craft well. It says a lot about my wonderful colleagues at ABC News.

TVNewser: You started off as a newspaper reporter. With all of the technological advances we’ve seen over the last decade, how long until print newspapers don’t even exist?

Thomas: As a former Washington Post reporter, I truly hope that never happens. I  hope that even as newspapers expand their online and digital footprint, that they retain the paper product. Still nothing like picking up a paper to read a great story while sipping tea on a Sunday morning.

TVNewser: As a journalist, and member of the National Association of Black Journalists, what are your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement?

Thomas: As journalist, what I will say is that the recent series of controversial incidents involving minorities and police—often caught on tape—show race and policing remain, in some communities, an important issue so many years after the Civil Rights movement. The topic requires thoughtful, balanced reporting and writing.

TVNewser: OK, what’s your favorite meal? Exact restaurant and order, please.

Thomas: At this moment, hamburger and fries at an Alexandria restaurant called Haute Dog.