It was exactly two years ago, June 6, 2011, when veteran reporter and “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley slipped into the anchor seat on CBS Evening News, succeeding Katie Couric. Two years later, the Connecticut resident has enjoyed much success in that role, generating a larger viewership and positive reviews.
The 55-year-old award-winning journalist, who recently received Quinnipiac University’s prestigious Fred Friendly Award, is also the managing editor of the CBS Evening News and is a correspondent for the network’s news magazine, “60 Minutes.” The former CBS news chief White House correspondent and married father of two, Spilled the Beans with Java before his “anchor anniversary” celebration officially got underway.
Q: It’s been two years since you took over the anchor chair on the CBS Evening News. Does it seem like yesterday or 100 years ago?
A: It seems like yesterday, it really does. Can’t believe we have hit the second anniversary of this evening news and I can’t believe how the audience is responding. I am not sure how good I am but am surrounded by good people. As the anchor, you always get way too much credit for the works of others and they are the ones that make the broadcast what it is. I am surprised that we have covered so much ground in the past two years.
Q: As you celebrate the second anniversary of you taking the anchor seat, the new ratings show Evening News is attracting a wider audience that includes a younger demographic. What’s the secret to your success and is it possible that young people can be lured to tv news in these days of Twitter and Facebook?
A: I am a firm believer that what guides people, men or women or young or old, to a newscast is whether there are well-told stories. People want to know about the world around them and the way to do that is through a story well-told. We spend an enormous amount of effort on storytelling. We use the 60 Minutes style to tell a story. We take time on the air to explain and don’t assume that the audience knows the background of a story. For instance, we don’t assume that our viewers know the 75 year history of the Middle East so we explain as we deliver the news. People do care about the world and we try to deliver what is happening in a clean and concise way. Americans are curious people. They want to know.
Q: What is “60 Minutes” style?
A: The news is delivered as more of a narrative, or as much as you can when you are doing an evening broadcast and trying to cover the 12 most important stories of the day. Again, clear, concise, fair, honest, easy to understand and told by the characters involved in the story. They are the ones who can tell the story best. In this day of social media and blogs, never before has there been so much information available, but with that so much bad information. People are looking for a brand name they trust when it comes to getting the news. There is a lot of sketchy information on the internet and elsewhere. I want my news from a reliable place.
Q: Will there be a party for this second year anniversary?
A: We will be having an ice cream sundae party on Friday for everyone at the headquarters and then a number of other little parties to celebrate.
Q: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Q: Is that anchor chair where you want to be for the rest of your career?
A: I am doing what I dreamed of from the age of 15 when I first started working as a copy boy. I wanted to be a tv anchor but never expected this. It’s too wild of a dream. Being an anchor combined with being one of the correspondents on “60 Minutes” is exactly where I want to be.
Q: You live in Darien. What’s the best part of living in Connecticut?
A: We love Long Island Sound and love to sail there. Sailing is a liberating and mind-expanding experience. We moved here about six years ago and we have met the best friends of our lives.
It was a state we knew nothing about but were attracted by its beauty and people. We haven’t been disappointed.
Q: Here in Connecticut, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings, the legislature has enacted a controversial bill that, among other provisions, blocks release of photos and videos of homicide victims. It’s a law that critics say compromises our Freedom of Information Act. Your thoughts?
A: I am a free flow of information guy but can understand the motivation. It’s not the first time I have run into this. There were the photographs that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wanted blocked. And that was a lot worse and there was a lot more pressure to get those released under FOIA. Congress passed special legislation. And the president signed it. The rationale was that it would be harmful to forces overseas if the photos of detainee abuse were released. That was a much more tenuous kind of rationale than protecting the feelings of the parents in Sandy Hook.
Q: Any last thoughts on your anniversary?
A: I just want to emphasize that the CBS Evening News is the work of hundreds of people even though it’s my name on the broadcast. That includes people who risk their lives to deliver the stories.