There’s a weird kind of Texas thing going on at CBS News.
It’s probably just a coincidence, but the new anchor of “The CBS Evening News,” Scott Pelley — who starts his new job on Monday (June 6) — is from Texas (he grew up in Lubbock). And two of his predecessors are from the Lone Star state too: Dan Rather was born and raised there, graduating high school in Houston. Rather’s predecessor, Walter Cronkite, was born in St. Joseph, Mo., but when he was 10, his family moved to Houston, where he too went to high school.
So that’s three Texans out of the five anchors CBS has had since 1948 (an incredibly small number for a 63-year expanse). In fact, the first CBS News anchor, Douglas Edwards, was from Ada, Okla. Only Katie Couric hailed from some other region of the country – Virginia – and her tenure as anchor was the shortest, just five years.
Do you know which CBS anchor held the job the longest? It wasn’t Cronkite, though he was the most famous – and beloved – of all network news anchors. It was Rather, who had the job for 24 years. Cronkite was in for 19 years, Edwards for 14. Edwards is considered the first network television anchor ever, taking up the job in 1948 at age 31 – the youngest-ever CBS News anchor too. At 53, Pelley’s the oldest to ever get the job.
As for Couric, her reign ended last month, vacating the position that Pelley will now assume. Like Rather, Pelley comes to the “Evening News” from “60 Minutes.” Of the five CBS News anchors, only Couric came from some other network – NBC. The other four were all CBS lifers.
Pelley is very much in the Rather anchorman mold. He has that dashing anchorman look, with a full head of silvery hair (sorry to bring up something as superficial as hair, but it happens to be important when you’re talking about TV news anchors).
Like every other elite anchor in network news, Pelley comes to the job with a wealth of experience. He’s been everywhere – from hot spots (war zones) to cold spots (one of his favorite locations on Earth is Antarctica, he said in a magazine interview) – and he’s interviewed everyone.
Late last month on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” Pelley talked about what it was like to grill Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Apparently, Pelley’s questioning about Iran’s nuclear ambitions was so intense that Ahmadinejad asked Pelley if he was a CIA agent.
Pelley seemed to indicate that with all he’s experienced as a globetrotting news star, anchoring an evening newscast will be a snap, relatively speaking. He said it’s the other title that he’s received – managing editor of the newscast – that excites him more.
“To tell you the truth, it’s not the anchorman part that I find interesting,” Pelley told Letterman. “It’s the managing editor part, which is coming into the office first thing in the morning, spending 10 hours working with the best journalists in the world, figuring out what we’re gonna cover, how we’re gonna cover it. If you get the first 10 hours right, the last half-hour tends to work out pretty well.”
“The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” premieres Monday, June 6. Check local listings (although it’s usually either 6:30 p.m./5:30c or 7/6c).