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CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley talks journalism. / Ben Gabbe / Getty Images


With this month marking the 50th anniversary of The CBS Evening News 30-minute broadcast, we caught up with anchor Scott Pelley.

Q: You’ve been reporting for CBS News for 25 years but what was it like for you the first night you sat in the iconic anchor chair at The Evening News?

A: “The word ‘terrifying’ leaps to mind.”

Q: What time do you start the day?

A: “My eyes fly open at 5:30 and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t even set an alarm clock. I come to work at about 8:30 in the morning.”

Q: How can a nightly newscast stay relevant in the Internet age?

A: “We spend the whole day separating fact from fiction because there’s a lot of fiction out there on the Internet. We try to verify what actually happened today and put some context and perspective together with our expert correspondents.”

Q: What do you think is the most underreported story right now?

A: “We still have 70,000 American men and women fighting every day in Afghanistan, and I don’t think we’re seeing enough of that on any evening news broadcasts. It’s been a long war and I do not believe Americans are tired of hearing about what Americans are doing in Afghanistan.”

Q: What do you read other than news?

A: “I read a lot of history and I’m very fond of biographies because I learn lessons about management, leadership humility from great figures of the past. I’m just now cracking open A. Scott Berg’s biography of Wilson, I just finished yet another biography of Churchill, I liked very much the biography of Steve Jobs that Walter Isaacson wrote.”

Q: Did you grow up in a “newsy” household?

A: “My parents were always interested in the news, they lived the news in some respects, they were part of “The Greatest Generation.” My father was in the 8th Air Force and flew bombing missions over Germany during the War. My mother built the airplanes that my father flew out in California in those days. So they were people who rose out of the great depression and we were Okies so they come out of The Dustbowl, fought World War II and had lived some of the most dramatic moments of our time. I think they inspired me to be interested in the wider world and interested in politics and far corners of the earth.”

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Q: And how about your own kids [with wife of 30 years, Jane Boone]?

A: “They are absolutely interested in the news. They have gone on a lot stories with me all around the world particularly things that I shot in the summer time for 60 Minutes. They had a marvelous opportunity to meet a lot of very interesting people so they are very tuned into news. My son is a senior in college and very interested in national security policy and my daughter she’ll be a freshman and she’s also majoring in political science. Every time our friends ask, ‘What’s your daughter majoring in?’ I say ‘political science’ and they kind of roll their eyes and say ‘of course.’

Q: You’re going to have an empty nest. Any big plans?

A: “My wife and I are probably planning on visiting our kids early and often.”

Q: Sitting in that chair gives you a lot of perspective. What do you think is the biggest issue we need to tackle?

A: “That’s a big question: Pick a world problem to solve...Everywhere I go I hear a lot of concern about public education. It is the future of our country and we cannot fail any generation or that will be a lost generation and I worry a great deal about the quality of public education and keeping kids in school and getting them all the way through high school. The dropout rates in many parts of this country is just unsustainable.”

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