For over 30 years, Kayce Freed Jennings has been at the forefront of groundbreaking news. After graduating from Brown and the London School of Economics, the ambitious young producer began her career at ABC News in London, where she first met Peter Jennings, who later became her husband.
Working for Nightline, Jennings covered the regions of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, before she relocated to Atlanta to cover the American South and national social policy. Additionally, she has worked for 20/20, PJ Productions and, since 2006, The Documentary Group, where she is co-founder. Recently, she co-edited the oral biography, Peter Jennings: A Reporter's Life and created the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Here, the accomplished newswoman and humanitarian talks about how she came to possess her most cherished possession: a pair of classic pearl earrings.
Tell us how you came to own this precious object.
"The pearls belonged to my grandmother. She didn't have much money or many things but she had impeccable taste so those few things she had— several French antiques, two cashmere sweaters, her pearls—were just perfect. She was also frugal. So, instead of the usual two earrings, she had three. That way, if she lost one, she'd still have a matching pair. She never lost one. I did, but I still have a matching pair. When I wear the earrings, I feel very connected to my grandmother and her values, which were as impeccable as her taste."
How do you live with your heirloom?
"The earrings are in a box with my other pearls: beautiful earrings from my sister, and a necklace that my husband bought in Hong Kong when he was there reporting on the handover from Britain to China. I love them all, and they are all meaningful, but my grandmother's earrings mean the most."
Who in your life has most influenced your personal style?
"I'm not sure I have as much personal style as I'd like. Well, I am sure, actually, I don't. Both my grandmother and my mother had terrific style, though my grandmother was more conservative and traditional. She believed in the perfection of the French antique and, perhaps, she didn't feel she could afford to make mistakes. My mother is more creative, takes more risks. She believes in mixing styles, especially when it comes to interior design. She's always had great confidence in her own taste. As a child, I remember that she used to push my sister and me to be more daring—to shorten our skirts further. No matter how short, they were always too long for her! To wear more leather—or fake leather, anyway. To wear bolder and funkier jewelry. I'm still much more conservative in style than I, and my mother, would like me to be."
Fill in the blank: Whenever I look at________, I can't help but smile.
"My Airedale, Harper Lee. She's just so bloody adorable and comforting, even if she is often infuriatingly diffident."
What's the best part of your day?
"First thing in the morning, between 6 and 7, when I'm in Central Park with my dog. In the summertime, there's that gorgeous early morning glow; in the winter, the dawn bounces off the snow and there's a wonderful, enveloping hush. It's very, very peaceful. It's when I really notice the extraordinary beauty of the Park."
What was the most memorable gift you've ever given or received?
"It was a gift I was never given. But it was an ingenious idea: shares in a Russian chocolate factory. I'm a very serious chocoholic. It's a genetic condition and runs happily through my father's side of the family. My husband didn't really understand the addiction, but appreciated that it was real. So when the former Soviet Union started privatizing in earnest, and Peter heard that the State was selling off one of the big chocolate companies, he thought he'd found the perfect birthday present for me. He had, but he wasn't able to make it happen in time. I think he gave me a digital camera instead. A consolation prize, but a pretty good one—even if it wasn't chocolate!"
What was your last purchase that you believe will mean something to you 10 years from now?
"A piece of Inuit art. I have a very modest collection of Inuit art and I recently bought another sculpture by Barnabus, a carver whose work I particularly love. One of the reasons I love Inuit sculpture is that it is so tactile—you want to touch it and it's often meant to be touched. With the exception of some pieces that depict a shaman or transformation, which I avoid, I find it extraordinarily soothing. The very first piece of art I ever bought myself was an Inuit print I found on the way back from a trip to the Arctic. I still have it. When I met my husband, who was Canadian, he already had quite a bit of Inuit art, so it was great fun to continue to collect it together."