Scott Pelley: NBC Nightly News ‘Has Only One Problem,’ CBS Evening News ‘is Better’

By Alissa Krinsky 

“When it comes to covering the news, and not wasting the audience’s time,” says Scott Pelley about the nightly network newscasts, “I think there’s one place you can come to…the CBS Evening News. Brian Williams does a terrific news broadcast [on NBC]. It has only one problem, and that is that ours is better.”

Pelley spoke with TVNewser on his second anniversary at the helm of the CBS Evening News, which he began anchoring June 6, 2011. It was the first newscast he’d ever anchored after 38 years in the business.

Although the program remains in last place among the ‘big three’, there has been steady ratings growth during the past two years. For last month’s May sweeps, the broadcast saw +8% total viewership growth versus May of 2012, the strongest trend for any of the nightly news shows.

“Imagine how counter-intuitive that is,” Pelley reflects. “Who would have predicted  that the ‘CBS Evening News’ would add a million viewers over the last few years – we’ve been losing viewers for decades. [But with] so much bad information floating around everywhere, particularly in social media, I think that people are looking for a thirty-minute encapsulation of the most important things that happened in the world, with a brand that they know that they can trust.”

The CBS News brand is important to Pelley, who next year will mark his 25th anniversary with the Tiffany Network.

He knows he’s getting more face time – and more credit-for-success – than ever before, but insists that “it’s really not about me. I am the most visible part of the ‘Evening News.’

“I may be the conductor of the symphony, but we have got virtuoso performers all around the world who make the music.”

CBS “is a news reporter’s shop”, and Pelley still considers himself first and foremost a reporter – working eleven-plus hour days, juggling duties both for “Evening News” and “60 Minutes.” During this most recent season, Pelley filed 23 stories for “60” – more than he’s ever done during a single season.

He says he can keep up that pace “forever.” His career “has been a joy.

“I’ve never worked a day in my life. I love news. I love writing, I love telling stories, this is a ball for me.  I wouldn’t do anything else.”