Scott Pelley to Replace Katie Couric on CBS Evening News

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Scott Pelley will take over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in June, CBS News confirmed Tuesday.

The news comes a week after Katie Couric announced that she intends to exit the anchor desk at the conclusion of her contract. The announcement completes the long-rumored succession plan at the CBS Evening News and caps months of heated speculation about Couric’s future with the news division, which earlier this year saw 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager named chairman and former Fox News and Bloomberg TV executive David Rhodes named president. The duo replaced Sean McManus, who was pulling double duty as president of both CBS News and CBS Sports, and oversaw Couric’s hiring five years ago for a stratospheric $75 million five-year deal.

In a statement announcing the move, Fager described Pelley as “among the very best reporters ever to work at CBS News.”

"We like to think of CBS News as the 'reporter's network' and I can't think of anybody in this business better suited for the anchor chair than Scott," he added.

STORY: Katie Couric Confirms She's Leaving 'CBS Evening News'

Pelley, who will turn 54 in July, comes to the CBS Evening News from 60 Minutes, where he has emerged as a leading correspondent and the voice of recession battered Americans through his emotional and often heartbreaking reports from the heartland. Pelley himself is from Lubbock, Texas, and though he has been working out of CBS’ Washington and New York bureaus for more than two decades, he still exudes a quintessential southern gentlemanliness. Married with two children, Pelley now makes him home in Darien, Connecticut.

He joined CBS News in 1989 and covered the 1990-91 Gulf War for the network. But he distinguished himself as chief White House correspondent during the investigation and impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. He joined now-defunct 60 Minutes II in 1999, which was helmed by Fager. When 60 II was shelved in the wake of Dan Rather’s report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service, Pelley became a regular correspondent on the Sunday flagship edition of the broadcast.

Pelley’s reports for 60 Minutes have ranged from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to glacier melting in Antarctica and the ravages of the recession, of course. An exceedingly thorough and prepared reporter, Pelley’s hard-news credentials are airtight. But some observers suggest he’ll need to work on the more free-flowing extemporaneous skills required of evening news anchors in breaking news situations.

Pelley will be taking over a broadcast that has been mired in third-place for decades. The three 6:30 p.m. broadcasts on CBS, ABC and NBC attract about 20 million viewers a night in aggregate, but they have largely been unable to grow their aging base in an instantaneous and increasingly fragmented media universe. NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams remains firmly in first place in the evening news race while ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer is ensconced in second. And while the evening news broadcasts are prestigious positions that confer upon their anchors the face of the news division, it is the morning shows bring in the lion’s share of ad revenue.

Pelley will continue to report for 60 Minutes. Couric and Dan Rather, who anchored the Evening News before her, also filed occasional reports for 60. But Pelley has emerged as the face of the Sunday broadcast. And his workload as Evening News anchor means that his time at 60 Minutes, which has been one of the major success stories at CBS News, will be necessarily curtailed.

In a statement, Pelley said: "I am delighted to join the terrific team at the CBS Evening News. It's a privilege to work alongside the most gifted and talented journalists in the industry."

Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com
Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie

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