Scott Pelley: ‘We’re getting the big stories wrong, over and over again’

Quinnipiac University | The Weekly Standard | Associated Press

We’re getting the big stories wrong, over and over again,” CBS Evening News anchor and Managing Editor Scott Pelley said at a Quinnipiac University lunch Friday. The first example he gave was one of his own mistakes: Reporting Nancy Lanza was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After the Boston bombings last month, “amateur journalists became digital vigilantes,” Pelley said.

Innocent people were marked as suspects, their pictures and their names ricocheted all over Twitter and Facebook and Reddit. That fire that started on the Internet spread to our more established newsrooms as well. In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor. And that is the danger that we face today. We have entered a time when a writer’s first idea is his best idea. When the first thing a reporter hears is the first thing that she reports. We have lived in a time now when we have seen major television networks take video off of YouTube and broadcast it to millions of Americans without verifying whether the video had been fabricated or not. Twitter, Facebook and Reddit: That’s not journalism. That’s gossip. Journalism was invented as an antidote to gossip.


Noting that both the FBI and President Obama dinged the media for their performance during Boston, Pelley said: “The president of the United States and the FBI were telling us what our bedrock principles should be? Aren’t we supposed to be watching them?”

Quinnipiac gave Pelley its Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. Citing the broadcasting pioneer’s values, Pelley said, “When I think about Fred, I think that he speaks to us every day if we will only listen. And I, for one, would do very well to listen more closely every day.”

AP reporter Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, Fox News anchor Eric Shawn and Gay Talese were among those attending, Quinnipiac says.

Highlights:

Whole speech:

Related: Rosenblum: Scott Pelley is no Fred Friendly

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • sweetplum

    Congradulations on your Award for the Fred Friendly at the Quinnipiac University. Scott Pelley is so humble! That’s what I love about him!

  • JTFloore

    as long as great pressure exists to “get it first” — and that ALWAYS has and will exist, particularly in broadcast coverage of breaking news — there are going to be reporting mistakes, many of them. most of those mistakes will never be corrected on air (or in print) because there are too many of them and there’s always something new to report. often an error is corrected once even though it was reported 20 times. broadcasters cannot admit it, but it is simply the nature of the beast.

    how often do we see one network or another boast that it reported something 30 seconds before anybody else? it’s ludicrous, but sometimes careers are actually built on such things.

    further, in such circumstances, reporters (in print, too, particularly now with twitter) are often too willing to believe “sources” that are marginally credible or not credible at all. how else do you explain all the “source” reports in the boston bombing that turned out to be false? a cop or a first responder says something and it gets reported, whether they actually had reason to know something or not.

  • SFMH57

    Well, at least someone is discussing this. The wild-west, free-for-all is quite interesting and I hope it’ll all be captured somewhere and eventually analyzed. On the face of it, it’s fun and it’s cool that so many “regular people” can be “involved” in the “gathering of news.” The truth is, Pelley is right about the danger inherent in what’s happening. And he admits he’s been taken in by it all, too. The old tyme drive to be first with the scoop has got to go. Accuracy definitely counts. On that alone (?), reputations are made and kept. Or lost. As we see.

  • http://twitter.com/Rosenblumtv Rosenblumtv
  • Mary Tillotson

    How amusing/interesting that there’s SO little feedback. Seekers of truth, you young “reporters”? LMAO.