Sitting face-to-face with Scott Pelley for two hours during an on-camera interview for CBS 60 Minutes was an intensely focused experience in bringing out the essential elements of the story, “Rewriting the Science,” on Bush administration political interference with climate science communication, first aired in March 2006.
On March 19, 2006, 60 Minutes aired the second part of a two-part global warming story. The segment, “Rewriting the Science,” focused on political impediments to public communication of climate science findings, drawing on interviews with Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences; and myself. The program made Nielsen’s top-10 ratings list for the week, with 15.2 million viewers. A transcript of the text is posted on the 60 Minutes website.
Unfortunately – unless I’m missing something – CBS has elected to remove video segments of this story both from the CBS News site and from YouTube. (Do they just do this after a story reaches a certain age, or what?) The visual element of the story was strong and integral to its effectiveness, both for graphics and for Pelley’s one-on-one interviews.
Part One of the story – “A Global Warning” – also with Pelley as the correspondent, first aired on February 19, 2006. Among others, the segment featured Robert Corell, who chaired the Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment, a major report published in 2004-2005. Throughout the 1990s Corell was the chair, and leading architect, of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
I have done a number of TV interviews, including several on-camera interviews that lasted an hour or even two hours or more (in order to extract no more than a few minutes of material for subsequent airing as part of a story). These have included, among others, 60 Minutes, PBS FRONTLINE, and PBS NOW. It’s a challenging exercise in sustained, spontaneous oral composition under the lights, for what will be viewed by a large audience, to make every sentence come out credibly and without miscommunication. 60 Minutes was an experience greatly enhanced by working with an interviewer who was well-prepared, to the point, and a skillful pro at this genre.
So I’ll take this occasion say thanks in retrospect for the opportunity to contribute to a story that helped shape public understanding of a problem that needed wider exposure, and to wish Scott Pelley well in his new position. It will be interesting to see what kind of cross-pollination Pelley and his team develop between 60 Minutes and the CBS Evening News.
From the May 3 announcement by CBS News:
Scott Pelley, one the most experienced reporters in broadcast journalism, has been named anchor and managing editor of the CBS EVENING NEWS, it was announced today by CBS News Chairman and “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Jeff Fager and David Rhodes, the President of CBS News. The appointment to the broadcast, to be re-named the CBS EVENING NEWS WITH SCOTT PELLEY, is effective on June 6. Pelley will continue to report stories for “60 Minutes.”
Few reporters have made as wide and as deep a mark on a news organization as Pelley has at CBS News, where he’s covered everything from breaking national news stories to politics to wars and served as the network’s chief White House correspondent. Since he brought that experience to “60 Minutes” in 2004, half of all the major awards won by the broadcast have been for stories reported by Pelley. …
Pelley’s team’s investigation into American “e-waste,” tracing the secret shipment of discarded toxic technology such as video monitors to overseas wastelands, won six awards: an Emmy, the George Polk, the RTDNA Murrow award, Sigma Delta Chi, the Loeb award and an Investigative Reporters and Editors prize. He broke news with “Rendition,” an Emmy-award-winning investigation into the CIA’s practice of handing over terrorist suspects to foreign countries known to use torture. For a “60 Minutes II” investigation on child slavery in India, Pelley and his team won an Investigative Reporters and Editors award in 1999.
His riveting interview of a Marine Corps sergeant, who led a squad accused of killing 22 civilians, in Haditha, Iraq, won a 2007 George Foster Peabody Award. Another intense interview, the first in which former CIA Director George Tenet broke his silence about 9/11, won the Pelley team an Emmy….
The Washington Post reported:
“With Jeff Fager, the executive producer of ‘60 Minutes,’ now running CBS News and a [‘60 Minutes’] correspondent as managing editor, you can expect lots of cross-pollination,” Pelley told the TV Column, adding that not all of it will be seen onscreen. “We trained the very best people at ‘60 Minutes,’ ” he said, and he intends to borrow from the newsmag staff as stories warrant. “There will not be a Chinese Wall anymore,” Pelley said. …
The New York Times reported:
Mr. Pelley said in an interview that he intended to “bring ‘60 Minutes’ values to the ‘Evening News.’” … Mr. Pelley described those values as “original reporting, unique insight and fairness to everyone involved.”
“60 Minutes” is the most-watched weekly news program in America, averaging about 14 million viewers on Sunday nights…
In what was perceived as a signal that he wanted CBS News to be known for hard news, Mr. Fager tempered some of the network’s comprehensive plans for covering the royal wedding last month. While the royal wedding was taking place, Mr. Pelley was working on a “60 Minutes” segment that took him to Iraq. …
Also: Outstanding PBS FRONTLINE hour-long program “Hot Politics,” on climate change and and the global warming disinformation campaign, which first aired on April 24, 2007. The program can be viewed in its entirety online. See segment #6–Censorship, on the Bush administration’s treatment of the first National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts. Extended text from a number of the interviews is also posted.