Dean of the School of Communications
Today, the School of Communications is proud to present the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award to Scott Pelly, the anchor and managing editor of The CBS Evening News, and a correspondent for 60 Minutes.
Friendly was a CBS News pioneer, helping to establish it as a vital force in broadcast journalism. He was a producer for Edward R. Murrow. As The New York Times wrote in an obituary on Friendly, the two men “virtually invented the news documentary on television, pioneering such techniques as the use of original film clips, live, unrehearsed interviews, and the use of field producers who supervised reporting on location.”
As a producer, and later as president of CBS News, Fred Friendly set the standard by which broadcast journalists are judged even today.
This is the twentieth anniversary of the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, and it is fitting that we present it to Scott Pelley.
One of the favorite devices that many television news producers use to tell a story is something called a match frame. Even those of you who don’t work in television have seen it. The idea is to take a single frame of video that captures a person or place from the past, and match that to a person or place as they appear today. The idea is to compare how much has changed, and how much is the same.
So I hope you will indulge me in a bit of what I’ll call “linguistic match framing.” I recently read articles about Fred Friendly and his career at CBS News, which began more than 50 years ago. Look at some of the phrases I found:
- A towering figure
- A purposeful air about him
- Restless intellect, curiosity, and desire to stimulate debate
- A force of personality
- A man of enormous energy and commitment.
- Forceful defender of the first amendment
All of those things said about Fred Friendly unquestionably match what can be said about Scott Pelley.
When I mentioned to a colleague that I was going to recommend Scott for this award, my colleague said, “He’s a great choice. The body of his work exceeds that of anyone who has ever been in broadcast journalism.”
Indeed, it could easily take me 60 minutes to list his accomplishments. He began his journalism career at the age of 15 as a copyboy at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper. His broadcasting career began at KSEL-TV in Lubbock, Texas in 1975, followed by stints at KXAS-TV in Fort Worth and WFAA-TV in Dallas. Scott joined CBS News as a reporter based in New York in 1989, before returning to Dallas as the CBS News correspondent there. He became the network’s chief White House correspondent in 1997.
Two years later, he joined 60 Minutes II and became a 60 Minutes correspondent in 2004. As CBS News has pointed out, since joining 60 Minutes, half of the awards won by the broadcast have been for stories reported by Scott Pelley, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Silver Baton, three George Foster Peabody awards, 20 national Emmy awards, five Edward R. Murrow awards, a George Polk and a Loeb award, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Writers Guild of America. Twenty-one of those awards have been earned for his work over the past five years on 60 Minutes.
Since taking the anchor and managing editor chair of The CBS Evening News in May, 2011, he has taken the broadcast back to its roots. The audience has responded, and the numbers continue to grow. Clearly he is doing something right.
Be it war, politics, terrorism, the economy, the Gulf oil spill, presidential politics; in the 24 years since Scott joined CBS News, he has filed so many stories for the network, that it might prove to be easier to name the stories he hasn’t covered.
It is altogether fitting that as the Quinnipiac School of Communications presents the 20th annual Fred Friendly Award, we present it to an individual who has carried on the tradition of excellence, which Fred Friendly helped establish at CBS News more than a half-century ago.