Scott Pelley took over as the Anchor of The CBS Evening News Two years ago and his ratings have gone nowhere but up.
In May, "CBS Evening News" gained 490,000 viewers. That's the largest gain for any network's evening newscast in more than a decade. During the two seasons since Pelley took over as anchor and managing editor, the gain is 720,000 viewers.
"Two years ago, Jeff Fager [chairman of CBS News] said, 'Look, make the Evening News like '60 Minutes,'" Pelley said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "'Tell hard news, tell us what happened in the world today. Tell it clearly, concisely and honestly, and the audience will come.' I desperately wanted to believe that was true. And since Jeff put me in this job, he was clearly putting all of our money on that prospect."
Of course, being as low down as CBS News was when Pelley took over, it is easier to show growth. Two years ago, some were predicting that the CBS Evening News might soon suffer the indignity of finding itself with a smaller nightly audience than a cable news program like the one hosted by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News.
But growth is growth, and the Pelley-led CBS Evening News has earned those new viewers the right way, offering them a source of news and information that is not hopelessly tainted by politics. CBS has instead regularly presented a nightly lineup of stories that speaks to its audience as citizens rather than dumbed-down and numbed-out viewers looking to be distracted from the realities of the world in which they live by amusing, sensational or artificially hyped narratives.
"I think what that tells you is the American people are looking for a place where they can get the top news stories of the day in 30 minutes told in as honest and complete a way as we possibly can tell them," Pelley says.
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