One Texan to another, Dan Rather is downright bullish on Scott Pelley.
“I’m not going to deny that I’m proud of the fact he’s a Texan,” says Rather. “Texans, generally speaking, have a strong sense of place, a strong tie to the land. I admire his record of slugging his way up from bottom.”
Pelley, 53, a San Antonio native and 21-year CBS veteran, yesterday was named managing editor and anchor of “CBS Evening News,” effective June 6. He was the heavy favorite to replace Katie Couric, who’s stepping down at the end of her five-year contract June 4.
Rather had campaigned for Pelley, off and on, for years. (Not that Rather’s endorsement carried any weight at CBS.) Given their similar career paths – Texas local news, then CBS and the White House, foreign wars, “60 Minutes” and anchordom – Rather probably sees himself in the younger newsman.
Pelley “burns with the hot, blue flame to report news,” says Rather, 79, managing editor and anchor at HDNet. “He’s relentless on a story. He has news in his id, his DNA. He cares about it. He knows it’s important. I think that translates to viewers. They connect with people they believe really care about the news.”
Moreover, Pelley is “steeped in the CBS tradition and history. He’s a true believer in the CBS mission. He knows the organization top to bottom because he came up from the bottom to the top. He has newsroom cred. He’s very good about thanking people up and down the line.”
But can Pelley, who will continue to report for ’60,’ make a difference in what Rather himself describes as “a damaged franchise?” For that matter, can anyone?