Scott Pelley: It’s the Hours Before ‘CBS Evening News’ That Makes It What It is

By Jordan Chariton 

Pelley304For its upcoming October issue, Scott Pelley talks to Watch! Magazine about three years anchoring the “CBS Evening News.” Pelley, who’s reporting from Iraq this week, stresses how pivotal the production process is.

“Anchoring is 30 minutes at the end of my day – just one last little thing I have to do. It’s the 10.5 hours before that that makes the broadcast what it is. The whole day is about what are we going to cover, how are we going to cover it, then editing all the scripts that come in because – as I always say to my guys, and they roll their eyes when they hear me say it – there’s no such thing as good writing, there’s only rewriting.”

Pelley also shares his scariest reporting experience to date.


“The scariest time, by far, was at the very beginning of the invasion of Iraq. My producer Bill Owens – he’s now executive editor of 60 Minutes – and I had gone into a port called Umm Qasr that the Marines had just taken. Unwisely, a unit of Iraqi infantry decided they were going to take the port back. So a hellacious firefight breaks out and I run to a squad of Marines that’s laying down a lot of fire, jump in the foxhole with them, and start talking to the camera. Suddenly this Iraqi shell comes right up over us and explodes in the air. Classic nerve gas dispersion profile. So the Marines yell, GAS GAS GAS and they all put their gas masks on and keep returning fire. Well, I reach down and I don’t have mine. When the firefight broke out, genus here ran to where they were shooting and I left my gear…..And hear comes Bill Owens, wearing his gas mask and digging for me as fast as he can, with my gas mask in his hand. And he gets it to me and I put it on. I don’t know how many people run into nerve gas to save somebody. Now we know there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction, and turns out it wasn’t actually nerve gas, but you didn’t know that at the time, and for Billy to do that for me….It was the scariest situation I’ve ever been in, and one of the greatest acts of bravery I’ve ever seen from somebody at CBS News.”

Pelley will report from Iraq again tonight during CBS’ special coverage of President Obama’s speech about ISIS.