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“CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley was on vacation visiting friends in San Antonio, Texas when he got the call late Thursday night about the Dallas police shootings.

By 4 a.m. local time, the Lone Star state native was on the scene reporting in Dallas, a city where he lived and worked for 20 years. From a downtown street corner, Pelley anchored “CBS This Morning’s” extended coverage of the aftermath of the sniper attack that left five law enforcement officers dead and seven wounded. As he prepared for an extended edition of “CBS Evening News” tonight, Pelley spoke with Variety about the trauma inflicted by the racially motivated shootings, the challenge of covering the increasing incidents of horrific violence and the impact of cutting-edge social media tools on traditional journalism.

Dallas is a place you know very well. What is your sense of how the city is dealing with the shock of these killings?

Dallas is a broad-shouldered city, a city of great strength and resilience. It will be fine but it will also never forget this day. This is the greatest loss of law enforcement lives in a single department since 9/11. Even though the scales are so much different, this is a modern 9/11 for Dallas. Nobody’s ever going to forget this day.

Before police officials made the point at their news conference, you noted the strides that the Dallas Police Department has made in community policing efforts and public outreach. Does that make it even more shocking that Dallas police would be targeted by a sniper?

I’ve known the Dallas Police Department for a lot of years and I’ve been particularly proud of what they’ve been doing the last 10 years. They had poor relations with the minority community 30 years ago. In the last 10 years they’ve been doing some innovative, bright community policing, reaching out and listening to the communities they serve. I was very proud of what the Dallas PD had been able to do in that area and that they had made it a priority. In addition to being tragic it is ironic that this kind of crime occurred here.

Dallas is just the latest example of unspeakable violence in the U.S. making international headlines. How do you, as the anchor of a newscast of record, bring context to the string of events that we’ve seen just this week?

I don’t know if this is a long-term trend or if it’s just this moment in time, but so much of our public life seems to be so much coarser than it has ever been, with so little respect for the ideas and the ideals of other people. We see it in the Congress. We see it in the presidential election. We see it in these shootings in which really cultures are clashing. In so many of these police officer-involved shootings, they happen between two people who don’t live in the same universe — a white police officer and a black male. Therefore there’s no chance for any kind of understanding in tense moments in which firearms are involved. I personally wish we could turn the rhetoric down in politics around the incredible violent outbursts that we’re having on a weekly basis in this country. We need to stop talking at each other and listen a great deal more. I feel in my heart we’re losing that in our culture and we can’t afford to do that.

The impact of social media as a platform for non-journalists seems to grow every day, as we saw this week with the police shooting in Minnesota that was broadcast via Facebook Live. How does this affect our culture? How does it affect the role of traditional TV news?

In the large sense I think it is a great step for social justice in that social wrongs can be documented by anyone and everyone at any time. As a professional journalist, however, one has to be extraordinarily careful about exactly what are we seeing on these videos. What happened before [the camera] went on and after it went off? If they’re narrating the scene — are they right? Are they biased in what they’re describing? It’s a sword that cuts both ways. These videos have been very revealing… and there is tremendous potential for them to be misleading. As journalists we need to approach these videos with the same skepticism that we apply to all information that comes in.