The Watchman: The Murrow-boro Man, Storm Stories, Saluting Staples

A visit to Scott Pelley’s office at the CBS Broadcast Center is essentially a visit to a CBS News museum. Framed photos of news luminaries line his walls. There’s Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Don Hewitt, Walter Cronkite, Arthur Bloom, Andy Rooney, Don Hewitt.

“Don Hewitt’s everywhere,” says Pelley.

So is Edward R. Murrow. In one photo, he’s lighting Marilyn Monroe’s cigarette. (“If you have a picture of Edward Murrow lighting Marilyn Monroe’s cigarette,” says Pelley, explaining the heretofore unwritten rule of Murrow-Monroe-Marlboro photography, “you have to put it up.”)

Another photo, Murrow training his gimlet eye on the photographer, is purposely hung at Pelley’s eye level. “When I come back here at the end of the broadcast, he looks at me, thinking, what have you done to my news division?” jokes Pelley.

On his desk, there’s an encased, signed softball—a Softball Award from a viewer who felt Pelley went way too easy on Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. “I took exception to his appraisal,” says Pelley, “but I love the award.”

Pelley’s TV tastes, outside of news, include Homeland, The Good Wife and lots and lots of football.

Speaking of football--and CBS News, for that matter (we’ll explain later!)--ESPN anchor Hannah Storm marked the 30th anniversary of her first Super Bowl assignment in a fitting place—Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara this past weekend. Starting Feb. 8, Storm solos the 10-11 a.m. hour of SportsCenter. The centerpiece of the hour is her franchise Face to Face interviews. In the hot seat this week: Bob Costas and Magic Johnson, among others.

“They’re not necessarily the same personalities you see every day on ESPN,” she says.

The 10 a.m. hour will allow her to flex different muscles, whether it’s the long-form interviews or breaking news. She proudly notes that she survived almost six years as anchor of CBS’ Early Show, covering everything from the Iraq War to Hurricane Katrina, and has that a.m. “sensibility.”

“A lot of stuff happens in the 10 a.m. hour,” notes Storm.

And there was a lot of stuff happening in Atlanta when the Watchman trekked down there for the Atlanta TV Festival—screenings, “triple threat” popcorn (butter, cheese, caramel), soul-sapping traffic. One shining star among the screenings—the HBO documentary Mavis! about beloved soul singer Mavis Staples. Staples, at 75, positively jumps off the screen. At one point, Stax Records legend Al Bell attempts to describe Staples’ otherworldy voice. “I knew Aretha then and I know her now,” he says. “Aretha’s no Mavis.”

Now that’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.