Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CBS Chooses Scott Pelley; No Excitement in Choice Spells Doom for the Program

Who can picture Scott Pelley?  That’s what I thought.  Few know the man who was just named to succeed Katie Couric in the “CBS Evening News” anchor chair once occupied by the vaunted Walter Cronkite and the inimitable Dan Rather.  And Pelley’s been at CBS since 1989.

The appointment signals to me that CBS has given up on the format and is using Pelley as a placeholder until it can move to the next phase of news delivery.  That is, the news division will probably pull the program and replace it with another format or move the whole CBS News operation to cable, possibly in tandem with CNN.

I have nothing against Scott Pelley, 53, who has a good reputation at “60 Minutes.”  He’s a solid news man who cut his teeth in Texas (like Rather and Bob Schieffer) as a 15-year-old copyboy in Lubbock and as a reporter at TV stations in Lubbock and Dallas.  He has 14 Emmy's and two Peabody awards.

Here's Scott Pelley.
How many could pick him out of a line-up?
Problematic is that CBS was not creative in its choice.  To prove my point, Pelley, comparing himself to Brian Williams and his great sense of humor, told the Associated Press, “I don't do comedy, although I appreciate Brian's comedy very much."  Pretty stiff.

Here’s some copy from his official CBS bio:

“His extraordinary list of interview subjects includes: President George Bush [and] two unprecedented interviews with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.”

If that’s not boring enough, how about this?

"Pelley's team's investigation into American 'e-waste,' tracing the secret shipment of discarded toxic technology such as video monitors to overseas wastelands won six awards."

I predict that ratings will suffer from the Pelley choice, meaning that CBS’ third place position will be further solidified with him as anchor.  (Williams on NBC is generally first while Diane Sawyer on ABC is perennially second.)

The network could have helped itself by picking an anchor with a pulse.  My suggestions have been Anderson Cooper, Joe Scarborough, George Stephanopoulos, Christiane Amanpour or even someone younger like Savannah Guthrie at MSNBC who did some great reporting on the Osama bin Laden raid.

But the strategy is more than likely one of giving up and letting the “Evening News” sink for lack of strength and excitement.  Pelley starts on June 6th.  There will be little fanfare in contrast to the cacophony that accompanied Couric’s first days.  It will just be another ho-hum week with no run-up and little publicity.  Boring is as boring does.

1 comment:

  1. I don't care what anyone says about Scott Pelley. I love and admire him.

    I've never watched much of the CBS Evening News until Scott started anchoring. He does an excellent job reporting interesting stories. I like his style and his stories hit home.

    If you ever take him off the CBS Evening News I will probably go back to watching Brian Williams on NBC who is only second best to Scott!