“This is my last broadcast for the CBS Evening News. We hope this has been something of a lighthouse for you to help you with your bearings in a stormy world,” Scott Pelley said Friday night – a couple weeks after word broke he was out, when people contacted reporters with word Pelley’s office was being cleaned out while he was on assignment for 60 Minutes.
Sources say Pelley arranged that gesture, after talks with CBS News chief David Rhodes ended acrimoniously, and the timing appeared to take by surprise the news division which was caught flat-footed.
“To the men and women of CBS News, my profound gratitude,” Pelley said to the camera, as he came to the end of his final newscast.
“Your nights away from your families, your 12-hour days, the days you risked your lives to bring light into the world, leaves me humbled,” he continued. “Our audience can and should take your work for granted, but I know the measure of your sacrifice.
“James Madison once wrote that freedom of the press is the right that guarantees all the others. The stakes are that high. And you are the best we have.”
CBS News officially announced his full-time move to 60 Minutes in late May, hours after word broke of his exit from the evening newscast, which Pelley has anchored since taking over for Katie Couric in 2011.
Pelley was let go as evening newscaster for being too little like eye-rolling Anderson Cooper and emotive David Muir, and too much like an old-school classically trained evening news anchor who quotes James Madison. Pelley’s CBS Evening News has this season run third among network evening newscasts in both total viewers and the news demo. That’s a ratings trend that predates Pelley.
This season to date, CBS Evening News trailed total-viewer frontrunner, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir by 1.6M viewers. In the news demo, Pelley trails leader NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt by 504K viewers.
“Monday, Anthony Mason will be here, backed by the same team that has carried me these six years,” Pelley told his viewers in his Friday swansong. “The broadcast will have never been better.”
“And, I’ll be at 60 Minutes.”
“So, for all of us at CBS News all around the world, goodbye and good luck,” Pelley concluded.