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Anthony Mason will serve as interim anchor of the CBS Evening News after Scott Pelley was pushed out of the chair. Pelley will return on Monday’s broadcast to say farewell to viewers.
Mason has served as one of the main fill-in anchors for Pelley. Some inside CBS News say he could eventually land the job officially. But one source compared his role to that of Bob Schieffer after Dan Rather left and before Katie Couric debuted on the program in September 2006. The difference this time is CBS News executives are unlikely to try to make a big (and expensive) splash by recruiting a high-priced anchor from a competing news division the way they did with Couric.
Mason, 60, is the co-host of the Saturday edition of CBS This Morning and the network’s senior national correspondent. He has been at CBS News for more than 30 years, joining the network in 1986 in the London bureau. He also frequently contributes to CBS Sunday Morning.
The news of Pelley’s ouster had long been rumored as the broadcast has remained stubbornly in third place, where it’s been for decades. And CBS News stalwart 60 Minutes, which marks its 50th season this fall, is operating with a thin regular correspondent corps; the untimely death of Bob Simon in early 2015 in a car accident in Manhattan left a big hole. Bill Whitaker, who was named a 60 Minutes correspondent in March 2014, has been a prominent addition to the broadcast. And Pelley continued to do as many as 20 pieces each season for 60 Minutes, a schedule that left him stretched rather thin.
But it has also been a challenging time in general for the nightly newscasts. All three broadcasts were down in the first quarter of 2017. The NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt was down 4 percent in viewers and 6 percent in the 25-54 demographic upon which television news is sold. ABC’s World News Tonight With David Muir was down 2 percent in viewers and 7 percent in the demo. Pelley’s Evening News, which remains in third in both measures, had the largest declines: 6 percent in viewers and 13 percent in the demo.
Still, news of Pelley’s exit, which broke on Tuesday night on the New York Post‘s “Page Six,” could fairly be described as less than smooth. The “Page Six” account noted that Pelley’s Evening News office was dismantled while he was “away on a story.” But CBS News sourced stressed that Pelley, who is in Turkey, had asked that his office be cleaned out while he was away. (The 60 Minutes offices are in a building across the street from the CBS News headquarters on West 57th Street.)
A source close to Pelley described him as “thrilled” to return to 60 Minutes full time, but “not happy about how it’s been handled.”
At 10 a.m. PT, CBS News released an official statement confirming Pelley’s transition to 60 Minutes and Mason’s appointment as interim anchor. “I find my heart filled with gratitude for the opportunity to know you, humility, in light of your sacrifices, and hope for the future of journalism because of the standards you live by,” Pelley said in a statement. “CBS has been great to me for nearly 30 years. I’m glad to accept this assignment with continuing gratitude.”
Added CBS News president David Rhodes: “Scott brought the best values of 60 Minutes to the CBS Evening News, and we thank him for his commitment to the journalism of this broadcast every night these past six years. The milestone 50th season of 60 Minutes requires Scott’s full contribution, and we look forward to important reporting from him for many years to come.”
Said Jeff Fager, executive producer of 60 Minutes: “Scott’s work over many years at 60 Minutes has been extraordinary. So has his dedication to consequential reporting. It is exciting for all of us, and good for our viewers, that he will be focusing all of his efforts on 60 Minutes.”
Added Steve Capus, executive editor of CBS News and executive producer of the CBS Evening News: “Scott’s tenure as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News has been one of the finest chapters in the history of this storied broadcast. Ever the consummate professional, Scott’s commitment to outstanding journalism, enterprise reporting and memorable storytelling has propelled the CBS Evening News to new heights and made the broadcast a showcase for excellence.”
May 31, 10:10 a.m. Updated with statements from Pelley and CBS News executives.
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