Scott Pelley’s Day 1: Amid Cable’s Weiner Onslaught, Cronkite’s Gig Ain’t What It Used to Be

Debuting to the backdrop of Cronkite’s old world map, the “60 Minutes” correspondent had all the gravitas he needed Monday to pull the gig off — but did anyone notice?

Last Updated: June 6, 2011 @ 9:05 PM

It was a day in which the most prestigious job in the news business, the anchor chair that once belonged to Walter Cronkite himself, changed hands.

But Scott Pelley's first day as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" barely moved the needle.

In fact, it almost seemed lost amid a day of nonstop salacious cable news and internet reporting about Rep. Anthony Weiner coming clean about tweeting lewd pictures.

It was the kind of agenda-setting that reminded many of us just how pushed to the margins broadcast network news has become.

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Dressed nattily in a red tie and black suit, the veteran “60 Minutes” newsman didn’t even acknowledge the occasion himself, leading into the evening newscast with a report by Mandy Clark out of Afghanistan.

Showing the kind of class cable news doesn't find useful, the Texas-native Pelley didn’t get to the Weiner story until after the first commercial break, while rival Brian Williams on NBC’s “Nightly News” led with it.

Pelley hardly seemed too small for the occasion, while taking over the anchor chair from the departed Katie Couric.

But that occasion just isn’t as big as it used to be.

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The “CBS Evening News” is now the third-rated nightly newscast, averaging about 6 million viewers a night – a hugely dilapidated position, relative to the pre-cable/internet dominance the program enjoyed back in 1981, when Dan Rather took the baton from Cronkite. 

For longtime “Evening News” watchers, there was perhaps some comfort in familiarity, with the network building a replica of the world map that used to hang behind Cronkite.

Also, the background music that was composed for the “Evening News” in 1987 — but ditched when Couric took over in 2006 — was dusted off.

CBS is hoping to inject some momentum into its “Evening News” by putting a key piece to its top-rated “60 Minutes” into the anchor chair, and the promotional run-up to Monday’s broadcast showed that.

Newspaper ads for the “Evening News” show Pelley in front of the iconic “60 Minutes” watch with the copy, “What if you can have the world-class original reporting of ’60 Minutes’ every weeknight? Well, now you can.”

Pelley will remain a correspondent on “60 Minutes.”

No mention was made Monday regarding predecessor Couric, who earlier in the day announced her signing with Disney/ABC to do a daytime syndicated talk show.

Pelley signed off with the following: “I’m Scott Pelley. For all of us at CBS News around the world, good night.”