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Documentary includes work of Peter Jennings

ABC News program on AIDS will show late anchorman's last production
/ Source: The Associated Press

A year after he died, Peter Jennings will be seen on camera next week as part of an ABC News documentary about AIDS that he was working on when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

The program, “Out of Control: AIDS in Black America,” was completed with Terry Moran as anchor and is scheduled for next Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

“This is the last piece of original reporting from Peter that will ever appear on American television,” said Tom Yellin, president and executive producer of The Documentary Group. That’s the successor to PJ Productions, Jennings’ production company.

Jennings was interested in examining the issue after a pitch from Betsey Arledge, a producer and daughter of the late ABC News and Sports president Roone Arledge, made him realize how little he knew about the extent to which AIDS has spread among blacks.

He is shown midway through the documentary conducting a discussion among HIV-positive black men. It was recorded a few weeks before Jennings was diagnosed with cancer in spring, 2005. Jennings was dressed in a denim shirt and looked pale, with a barely noticeable catch in his voice.

At one point, a man tells Jennings that he never told his wife he also had sex with men and although she’s now infected, she accepts it.

“Doesn’t have much choice, does she?” Jennings retorts.

The project was put on hold when Jennings became sick, with the hope that he would recover and resume work, Yellin said.

“When it was apparent he wouldn’t get better, we didn’t know what to do, honestly,” he said. Jennings died on Aug. 7, 2005.

Yellin and ABC News President David Westin eventually agreed that the project should be finished. But the idea of including Jennings’ discussion prompted another lengthy debate.

Some at ABC wondered whether it would strike viewers as strange to see Jennings a year after he died, so they argued for cutting the segment out. There was thought given to keeping comments from the round-table and cutting Jennings out but it was agreed his interchanges with the men were interesting.

“It was a content-based decision,” Yellin said.

Moran tells viewers at the outset of the documentary and before the roundtable that Jennings was included, to avoid confusion.

It was the last project for PJ Productions.