June 16, 2011

Scandal Sets Pelley Apart

CBSEvening News 153
ABCWorld News Tonight 496
NBCNightly News 534

2:33 – Time the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley devoted to “Weinergate” from June 6-10

Just hours before Scott Pelley premiered as the network’s new evening anchor, Congressman Anthony Weiner held a late afternoon press conference to admit that he had been lying when he denied sending lewd photographs to women via his Twitter account.

The Weiner scandal presented Pelley, a veteran CBS newsman and 60 Minutes correspondent, with a choice. How, as he began a new era at CBS News, did he want to play a scandal sex scandal, one in which double entendres and sexual innuendo were hard to avoid?

Pelley chose not to lead with the story, in contrast with his competitors at ABC and NBC. His program was deliberately understated, reminiscent of a more traditional era of network news.

By the time the week was over, the “CBS Evening News” had spent just 2:33 on the scandal the week of June 6-10. This is just a third of the time devoted to the story on both ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” who devoted 8:16 and 8:54, respectively.

Pelley also devoted significantly more time than his rivals to international affairs, including the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and the Middle East Unrest, according data from the News Coverage Index of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

It is hard to say whether the choice was a commercial success or failure. That first week, Pelley drew 5.7 million viewers—the same number as Couric did at her departure.