Scott Cameron Pelley (born July 28, 1957) is an American television reporter.
Pelley has been the Anchor and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News since 2011, and has been a Correspondent for the CBS News Magazine, 60 Minutes since 2004. He served as a Correspondent on 60 Minutes II from 1999 to 2004, and as the CBS News Chief White House Correspondent from 1997 to 1999.
Early life and education
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Pelley grew up in Lubbock, where he graduated from Coronado High School and obtained his first job in journalism at the age of 15 as a copyboy for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Staying close to home, he majored in journalism at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock.
Pelley began his career as a broadcast journalist at Lubbock's KSEL-TV in 1975. He moved on to KXAS-TV in Fort Worth in 1978, then jumped to WFAA-TV in Dallas in 1982, remaining there for seven years. In 1985, Pelley's reporting on Guatemalan refugees living in remote jungles of Mexico caught the attention of executives at CBS News (though WFAA was an ABC affiliate), but it would be another four years before Pelley would move to the CBS network.
Pelley's CBS career started in New York City in 1989. Later, he returned to Dallas to cover national affairs from the CBS bureau. Pelley covered the 1990/91 Gulf war, reporting from Baghdad and traveling with the XVIII Airborne Corps in its assault on Iraq and Kuwait. He was assigned to cover the 1992 presidential campaigns of Ross Perot and Bill Clinton, and also reported on such major events as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Pelley served as CBS News' Chief White House Correspondent from 1997 to 1999. During that time, President Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives. In covering the investigation of the president, Pelley broke the news that Monica Lewinsky had become a cooperating witness in the investigation conducted by the Office of Independent Counsel. Pelley was also first to report that President Clinton had been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Later, in 2001, Pelley got the first interview with former president Clinton in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II
In 1999, Pelley left the White House to join 60 Minutes II shortly after its inception. In 2000, Pelley landed the first interview with the new president-elect, George W. Bush. The next year, on the morning of September 11, Pelley reported from the scene of the collapsing World Trade Center towers. In 2002, Pelley landed the only interview with President Bush on the anniversary of 9/11. In 2003, Pelley began filing reports for 60 Minutes on Sunday. He moved to the Sunday edition of the broadcast in 2004.
Pelley's work has also featured reporting on the economic collapse of 2008-2009, on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and reporting on climate change from Antarctica and the Arctic. In 2008, Pelley conducted an interview with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The interview was the first with a Fed Chairman in decades and broke a long-standing Federal Reserve tradition. The broadcast was honored with an Emmy Award.
Pelley has reported from Iraq on the front lines in the battle against ISIS; he landed the first major television interview with FBI Director James Comey in 2014; and he conducted a compelling interview of the nurses who treated the first Ebola patient in the United States. Pelley also conducted the only interview with one of the Navy SEALs who helped to kill Osama bin Laden and a news-breaking interview with the chief accuser in Major League Baseball's doping case against Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, in addition to extensive coverage of the Lance Armstrong saga.
In September 2015, Pelley met Pope Francis at the Vatican ahead of the pontiff's historic visit to the United States. Pelley also led CBS News' extensive coverage of the pope's visit to the United States.
Starting with the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990 and the 1991 invasion of Iraq, Pelley has reported extensively from many war zones. In 1991, he accompanied the XVIII Airborne Corps on its invasion of Iraq to force the liberation of Kuwait. In 2001, Pelley and his team joined U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. In 2003, Pelley and a 60 Minutes team were the first to break the news of the second invasion of Iraq, reporting from an outpost they had created in the DMZ between Iraq and Kuwait. The team opted out of the Pentagon's embed system and covered the invasion of Iraq independently from the initial strike to the fall of Baghdad. Pelley returned to Iraq frequently to report on the insurgency. In 2006 and 2007 he filed reports on the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In his 2007 report, Pelley enlisted the help of a rebel group to organize an armed reconnaissance into Darfur. The story revealed a village that had been destroyed by government forces in their campaign of genocide. The Darfur report was honored with an Emmy Award. In a review of the story, the Washington Times wrote, "The legacy of (Edward R.) Murrow lives at CBS in the daring, long-range investigations of Scott Pelley." In Afghanistan, Pelley has accompanied numerous units of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in combat operations and has reported independently on the effects of the war on civilians. In 2011, The CBS Evening News was broadcast from Afghanistan for a series of reports on the 10th anniversary of the war.
CBS Evening News
Pelley became the anchor of the CBS Evening News on June 6, 2011, succeeding Katie Couric. In his first 9 months in the anchor chair, Pelley gained an additional 821,000 viewers. CBS News has also enjoyed increases in its audience for special news events. After election night, 2012, Variety wrote, "With Scott Pelley front and center; the Eye was up 8% from four years ago." The CBS Evening News has increased its audience every year from 2011 through 2015. On May 29, 2015, the media website, The Wrap, wrote: "These days, CBS brass may finally have a reason to smile. On Wednesday, the network announced “Evening News with Scott Pelley” added more than 1.25 million viewers over the past four years – a whopping 21 percent jump. The show also saw audience growth for the fifth consecutive season, the first time any network evening news broadcast has done that since 1987."
At the end of the 2015-2016 television season, CBS News announced, "The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, America’s fastest growing network evening news broadcast, finished the 2015-16 television season with CBS’s highest ratings in the time period in 10 years (since the 2005-06 season), according to Nielsen most current ratings. The CBS Evening News has grown its audience for six consecutive seasons, a first-time achievement for any network evening news broadcast since the advent of people meters (since at least 1987). Under Pelley, who assumed the anchor chair in June 2011, the CBS Evening News has added +1.4 million viewers and an audience increase of + 23%, which is double NBC and ABC’s growth combined over the same period (since the 2010-11 season)."
In 2012, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote, "In Pelley, CBS has probably the most well-qualified and proven television journalist ever to ascend to the anchor job." Variety wrote, "For CBS the key was switching to Pelley, the former war reporter and White House correspondent. He took over from Katie Couric and has steadily made up ground ever since." Of 60 Minutes, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun wrote in 2007, "If there is a single face of the broadcast, it is now that of Pelley who has done several of the biggest interviews and stories." Allen Neuharth, founder of USA Today, noted that "Pelley threw hardballs" in his 2007 interview with President Bush. Bob Woodward, writing in The Washington Post in 2007, said, "Scott Pelley nailed the crucial question" in his interview with former CIA Director, George Tenet. William F. Buckley, Jr., in the National Review, said "Pelley did fine work" in the Tenet piece. Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote, "the strongest on-air personality of the moment belongs to one of the program's blander faces, Scott Pelley." On Pelley's second anniversary as anchor of the CBS Evening News, the Baltimore Sun praised Pelley and his team for delivering an "honest" newscast.
Variety has also lauded Pelley as anchor of the CBS Evening News, saying "he conveys the sense of someone with genuine gravitas and a commitment to his craft, while appearing cool and unflappable in breaking-news situations." In February 2015, the Los Angeles Times praised Pelley's "no frills style" and lauded him for being "all about the journalism." Veteran television writer Stephen Battaglio wrote, "While authenticity has become a hot topic in TV news, Pelley has never needed to invent it or try to enhance it."
In 2016, Pelley and his team were awarded the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for reporting on a nerve gas attack that occurred in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria in 2013. More than 1,400 civilians were killed. The judges cited, "previously unheard testimony and unseen images which bore shocking witness to the 2013 Syrian Sarin gas attacks." This was Pelley's third duPont-Columbia Award, considered the highest award in electronic journalism.
In 2014, CBS News was recognized with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for its coverage of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. In their citation the judges wrote, "Scott Pelley’s conversation on “60 Minutes” with seven of the families that lost children was remarkable for its courage and candor."
In 2013, Pelley's team of producers, photographers and editors won its third George Foster Peabody Award for an investigation of a fraudulent medical study at Duke University. The report detailed how a star researcher fabricated data in what was thought to be an important breakthrough in cancer treatment.
In 2011, Pelley's team won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for an investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The story uncovered the troubled history of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the months and days before the 2010 blowout that killed 11 crewmen and unleashed the largest accidental oil spill in history.
In 2009, Pelley's team won its second George Foster Peabody Award for a report on the medical relief organization Remote Area Medical. RAM was created to airdrop doctors and supplies into the developing world, but today it does most of its work setting up free medical clinics for the uninsured in the United States.
Also in 2009, Pelley's team won the George Polk Award and an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for an investigation of American recycling companies that secretly ship hazardous waste to China. The report exposed an illegal trade that ruins the health of villagers who dismantle discarded computers under medieval conditions.
The Pelley team's reporting on the deaths of civilians during a Marine engagement in Haditha, Iraq, won the 2007 George Foster Peabody Award. The citation for the award said in part, "This thorough, open-minded investigation of the worst single killing of civilians by American troops since Vietnam put not just the incident into better perspective but the entire Iraq War and the terrible choices it presents both soldier and civilian".
Pelley has been the correspondent on teams that have won 33 national Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The show's reporting on child slavery in India earned 60 Minutes II the Investigative Reporters and Editors award in 1999.
Pelley's team has won six Edward R. Murrow Awards, which were bestowed by the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Writers Guild of America Award.
Pelley is the former Co-Chair of the Board of Overseers for the International Rescue Committee, the refugee relief agency headquartered in New York City.
Pelley left Texas Tech without a degree, but he has maintained an ongoing relationship with the university. On March 22, 2013, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of Texas Tech University, the highest honor bestowed by Texas Tech Alumni Association. Pelley was inducted into the Texas Tech University College of Media and Communication Hall of Fame in 2006. He currently serves on the professional advisory board of the university's College of Media and Communication.
In 2010, Pelley was named to Salon.com's "Men on Top" list alongside Conan O'Brien, Tom Hardy, and Mark Ronson. "He restores a little of our faith in TV news," writes Salon.com, "while performing hugely important, world-bettering reports along the way."
In 2016, Pelley won the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
In 1983, Pelley married Jane Boone Pelley, a former television reporter. They have one son and one daughter.