Scott Pelley begins his tenure this week as the anchor of the show that bears his name, “The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.” But I’m wondering, what if his name were Scott Pellicito or Scott Pelley Woo?
I do congratulate Scott on his new role and wish him well. In fact, he’s an old colleague from my early 20s when we both worked at KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth. (Action News, anyone?)
In 1980, I was a reporter brought in from California by way of a tiny station in Reno, NV. Someone liked the idea of an Asian American guy of Filipino descent with a Spanish last name confusing Hispanics in the Big D. Scott was a kid from Lubbock being groomed for executive leadership someday.
We weren’t especially close, but we did find ourselves at a friend’s bachelor party once. Let me put it this way. It wasn’t Hangover 1 or 2. And I wasn’t Mr. Chow.
Scott showed up in a tie, typical of his super-serious, super-conscientious hard news reporter style. He was all business, all the time, and it’s definitely paid off. He has worked on his gravitas.
In the past, a new anchor’s arrival would have been regarded as major cultural news, as this is the former chair of the avuncular (Walter Cronkite) and the abrasive (Dan Rather). But with the slide of the major networks’ influence during the rise of 24-hour cable and the digital age, a marquee anchor just isn’t quite the job it used to be.
But, of course, it’s still too much of a job to think of even giving an Hispanic male or an Asian American male, a chance.
When I began my TV career that notion was a dream, though perhaps unrealistic. You might find those guys on the weekends somewhere in the big local markets, but not on the Tiffany Network and not even at 5:30 when no one is watching. So the job still has enough cache for Pelley to be willing to take a “demotion” from his spot as prime-time player on “60 Minutes.” The job also comes with the title “managing editor,” which makes him the news division’s field general, a natural ascendancy for the fresh faced producer in the starched white shirt I knew in Dallas.
Part of me is proud that we worked together more than a generation ago.
A part of me is wondering where was it after KXAS that he crossed over and became the face of my glass ceiling?
I take nothing away from Scott. His talent and journalistic courage speak for itself. He’s earned the spot. I was even rooting for him before Katie Couric got the job five years ago.
I suppose I’m feeling the way many an Asian American lawyer might feel about a classmate becoming Chief Justice of the United States (I was an undergrad with John Roberts, but not a law school classmate).
Wistful? Just realistic about how far any person of color can go even in this lifetime.
I really do wonder if his name were Scott Pellicito, or if he were a different ethnicity, if he’d even be given the same chance to break out and anchor himself on W. 57th St.?
No doubt he’d have to be 10 times better than he is now. But Scott doesn’t have to prove a thing.
He’s old friend Scott Pelley from Lubbock, Texas. Perfect for the part.