Scott Pelley’s Ill-Timed Debut: Nat’l Weiner Day

Scott Pelley made his debut as anchor of “The CBS Evening News” on Monday night, opening with extensive coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and closing with a heart-warming piece commemorating the D-Day invasion.

The poor bastard doesn’t have a chance.

CBS News Chairman Jeffrey Fager has talked about bringing the values of “60 Minutes” to the evening news, and that was clearly the intent of the first broadcast.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world had other ideas, going pretty much non-stop with more salacious Anthony Weiner Twitter-gate circus.

Yes, Pelley covered the Weiner press conference, but as sparingly as he could, with what amounted to hold-your-nose restraint.

Pelley is a solid journalist, and has said all the right things in trying to chart a new course after the Katie Couric experiment. (Couric did her own little bit to rain on his parade by announcing her ABC deal to coincide with her successor’s debut.)

Of course, for CBS’ hard-news turn to really work, the network will have to exhibit patience — something that rarely happens in such situations, despite the opening-day pronouncements. Perhaps the best news for Pelley and company is that with CBS having sunk to the ratings level it’s at, it’s not like he has to worry about a precipitous drop, since a lot of the dropping has already happened.

In theory, it would be terrific if CBS could establish itself as a solid and sober alternative in the “60 Minutes” mode. Yet the stress is that there are plenty of Weiner stories out there, and the rest of the world — particularly the cable universe — will be flogging them, pardon the expression, 24/7.

Pelley’s signoff was a note of thanks “For all of us at CBS News, all around the world.” Stately and serious, to be sure.

For all of us who would like to see an environment where hard news can survive clicks-and-ratings pressure without being drowned out by TMZ, Pelley struck a small blow Monday. Still, when it comes to CBS News with everything but “60 Minutes,” I’m beginning to think if the organization didn’t have bad luck, it wouldn’t have any luck at all.


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