Scott Pelley's First 'CBS Evening News' Night: What the Critics Said

11:09 PM PST 06/06/2011 by Kimberly Nordyke
Donna Ward/Getty Images

The New York Times compared the CBS Evening News broadcast to a "frozen dinner," while the Baltimore Sun praised Katie Couric's replacement and his "sense of what's important."

Scott Pelley made his debut as anchor of CBS Evening News on Monday night, replacing Katie Couric, who is launching her own talk show next year.

So what did the critics have to say about Pelley's first night?

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley wasn't wowed.

"No anchor is likely to recapture [Walter] Cronkite’s cachet and unquestioned authority," Stanley wrote. "What Mr. Pelley really offers is a return to a glamour-free newscast; he is earnest and solemn, dependable and not too dashing. On Monday he showed none of Ms. Couric’s pizzazz or Dan Rather’s emotion. In style and temperament, Mr. Pelley is closer to Bob Schieffer and Harry Smith, CBS veterans who have filled in as evening anchor with affable aplomb."

She also riffed on his assertion that CBS Evening News, under his watch, will now feature the "world-class original reporting of 60 Minutes every weeknight."

"It’s a little like claiming that Stouffer’s frozen turkey pot pies make for a fine dining experience — there is plenty to be said for speed and convenience, but it’s not the same as a four-course meal at Le Bernardin, or a four-segment episode of 60 Minutes," Stanley wrote. "And Mr. Pelley’s broadcast was closer to a frozen dinner."

On the other hand, the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik liked what he saw, writing that the newscast "seems to know what it is about and doesn't crazily chase the last breaking story that looks to have some sizzle."

He wrote that Pelley and his team handled the news of the day -- Anthony Weiner's confession that he had lied about sending sexually suggestive photos to several women via the Internet -- with "flying colors."

"They gave us more than enough of the sorry spectacle of Weiner admitting his creepy online and social media relationships with women young enough to be his daughters," Zurawik wrote. "They included the press conference with the congressman's pitiful confession of mediated sexual relationships -- and his acknowledgment of all the lies he has told in the last week. And they gave us a nice backgrounder to boot for context on other recent congressmen who have gone off the rails on sex. But they waited almost 12 minutes before getting to those stories, because they wanted to first explore the news of five soldiers dying in Iraq. Good for Pelley and CBS News and their sense of what's important."

The Los Angeles Times' Robert Lloyd noted that Pelley took a more serious approach than Couric.

"Straightforward and dry, Pelley seems like a step back toward fellow Texan Bob Schieffer, who filled the anchor space between the departure of Dan Rather and the coming of Couric and whom Pelley resembles physically, allowing for the 30 years' difference in age," Lloyd wrote. "As a known quantity within the department, and already part of the brand, he seems a safe and a smart choice."

In fact, most critics agreed that Pelley took a straight-ahead approach to delivering the news, without any unnecessary frills.

Wrote the New York Daily News' Richard Huff: Pelley presided over "a smooth newscast that was low on flash and high on bread-and-butter stories about war, cancer cures and, eventually, lying Congressman Anthony Weiner. It was a show built to Pelley's strength -- delivering solid stories, followed by low-key, informative conversations with correspondents about what's going on in the world."

He continued: "There were no stunning innovations, nothing viewers hadn't seen before in terms of presentation, just a straight-ahead delivery of the news in a manner that will clearly appeal to the core viewers ages 25 to 54. That, no doubt, was the point." 

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