Scott Pelley to Leave as Anchor of ‘CBS Evening News’ and Return to Full-Time Role at ’60 Minutes’

CBS News declined to comment on the situation, which appears to have caught the network by surprise. Pelley is currently on assignment for the venerable Sunday news-magazine, but had his office packed in his absence, this person said, in full view of staffers.

Pelley is expected at present to return to the evening newscast before ending his tenure, this person said.

The transition may be one of the more abrupt the medium has seen in the evening-news space, even keeping in mind Brian Williams’ departure from “NBC Nightly News” in 2015, the direct result of the anchor making misleading statements about a 2003 helicopter trip that resulted in his being suspended, the removed, from the program. For decades, the networks have tried to pass the evening-news baton from an august veteran to an experienced successor: Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather. Charles Gibson to Diane Sawyer. Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams.

To be sure, the networks have tested new formats and different combinations of anchors, some of them short-lived. But it is not standard practice to have the departure of one anchor slip out in informal fashion, and not to have some sort of succession plan in the works.

Pelley, a veteran reporter and anchor whose body of work has been awarded an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Silver Baton, two George Foster Peabody awards, 14 national Emmy awards, five Edward R. Murrow awards, a George Polk and a Loeb award, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Writers Guild of America, joined “CBS Evening News”  in 2011, replacing Katie Couric. His ascension to the anchor chair was seen as a return to a more traditional “CBS Evening News” broadcast after the network and Couric attempted to craft a program that wasn’t so rooted in the decades-old conventions of the format.

Pelley’s broadcast has gained viewership during his tenure but it also lagged both NBC’s “Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight” regularly. The NBC newscast, anchored by Lester Holt, leads in viewers between 25 and 54, the audience most coveted by advertisers, while the ABC broadcast, anchored by David Muir, this season has the most viewers overall.

Even as the CBS newscast came in third place, Pelley had developed a reputation for delivering arch copy lines about the biggest news stories of the day. “It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality,” he told viewers when opening a broadcast in February.

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Source: Variety / Brian Steinberg

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