Forget all the stories, and speculation and lists - especially the lists of "who will replace Katie Couric.' The name has been chosen. The next anchor of "The Evening News" will be Scott Pelley.
CBS has yet to make an announcement, and one will not formally arrive until Katie Couric makes an official declaration; that's predicated to a certain extent on her ability to secure a syndicator for the talk show from her still-unborn production company. But Pelley's the one.
A good choice? Perfectly good - if a little predictable and bland. Pelley's a good broadcaster and a competent one; the rap has long been an inability to light up the screen, but maybe that's exactly what CBS wants right now - less light, more action. At least more action of the ratings variety.
As a choice, Pelley has three immediate benefits, in no particular order:
1.) He won't cost $15 million a year, but a considerably smaller fraction of that. His new deal will likely be predicated on a variety of factors, notably an ability to reverse "EN's" long slide to obscurity and then build from there. If that mission is accomplished, he will be on the Brian Williams pay scale by his next contract. Money's a huge deal at CBS now - witness the eviseration of "The Early Show." Budgets are being carved, and no one wants to be too large a target, as Katie was.
2.) He has long and deep ties to CBS News. One major problem with Couric was that she did not. Katie joined with her own retinue of supporters, producers and sounding boards; some if not all came from NBC. The problem was an immediate cultural stand-off; Katie five years ago came off as high-handed, and dismissive of CBS' traditions and culture. She wanted things done her way and not CBS' way. People who join CBS News - especially big stars - have long been culture-shocked by the Milk Factory's (headquarters on 57th) insular ways. But this is a proud place, and deeply resistant to interlopers who charge in thinking they know how do something better than they do. Pelley will enter with no baggage of this sort.
3.) Finally, Pelley has long and deep ties to "60 Minutes," which means he has ties to "60 Minutes" chief Jeff Fager, who was former executive producer of "Evening News." For many years - in fact, pretty much forever - "EN," as the crown jewel of the southern side of West 57th, and "60 Minutes," as the crown jewel of the northern side (both shows are in separate buildings) maintained little contact. "60" liked to maintain its distance for many reasons - too many to get into here - and as a result there were separate fiefdoms within the kingdom. But Pelley is the prince who can bind both worlds; he can continue to do pieces for "60," and he is currently the most visible of the chief correspondents, and handle "EN" duties too. This could conceivably draw "60" viewers over to "EN," and vice versa. Katie had a negligible presence on "60," and so the benefits were never accrued. Pelley - in theory - could build a bridge. Honestly, there is no reason why not; "60" is a top 20 show, and one of TV's most enduring successes. Why shouldn't "EN" get the benefit of that? I've long liked the idea of bringing Lara Logan into the mix too, so I wouldn't write off a more exalted role for her as well in the "EN" future.
But for now, here's your new anchor: Scott Pelley.