The Night the News Cycle Changed in a Hurry
By Joe Amarante, The New Haven Register
CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager this week named Scott Pelley of Darien to replace Katie Couric as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" starting in June. Good move.
Pelley might be seen as a bit of a throwback to the "voice of God" anchors who ruled the network news when it was the "Tiffany Network." He's even from the same state, Texas, as former CBS anchors Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite. But CBS already blazed a trail with former "Today" show host Couric as the lone female anchor and that didn't solve the show's ratings woes.
Pelley, 53, and a colleague of Fager's and Rather's at "60 Minutes" and "60 Minutes II," is seen as a smart choice because of his reporting and work ethic.
Rather called him "relentless in his drive to do good journalism." Fager said, "... I can't think of anybody in this business better suited for the anchor chair than Scott."
A Connecticut woman who worked with Pelley on "60 Minutes II," Robyn Gengras of Hartford, echoed that sentiment.
"I'm thrilled for him; he'll be great in that position," said Gengras. "Everybody who has worked with him will say this of him: He's one of the hardest-working men in the news business you'll ever meet."
Gengras moved to Hartford six years ago when her husband changed jobs (she has three children) and works today as an associate with the media relations firm Duby McDowell Communications. (Duby has a great media blog called The Laurel.)
At the network, the New York-born Gengras worked as an assistant and later associate producer in a small team with Pelley to pitch story ideas and help create segments for the newsmagazine.
"The producer-correspondent relationship is so crucial ... and he (Pelley) was always so supportive. ... I would pitch to him and up the ranks to Jeff Fager."
Pelley, said Gengras, "has such an incredible sense of journalism to begin with. Working with him was really quite a treat, to be honest with you. ... If you were insecure about one aspect of a story, he always made time for you."
Gengras, who sent Pelley email congratulations Tuesday, said even though Pelley is somewhat familiar to viewers for his reporting, he may be seen as somewhat of a fresh face as anchor.
"The thing is, he's a good, good guy... he's not a diva. He's down to Earth," said Gengras. "And part of it (succeeding as anchor) is just being likable."
"60 Minutes II" was canceled in the wake of Rather's train-wreck resignation over the George W. Bush/National Guard story. Neither Gengras nor Pelley worked on that story. Pelley will continue working on the original "60 Minutes" while anchoring, by the way.