While other boys his age were reading Hardy Boy mysteries and articles about baseball, Scott Pelley was riding his bike down to the public library in Lubbock, Texas and checking out books on faraway places.
“I kept a stack by my bed and when I finished those, I’d return them and get more,” says Pelley, author of the recently released memoir Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times Hanover Square Press 2019; $17.70)
Pelley, a definite glass half full kind of guy, is thankful he’s been able to make his living for the last four decades covering stories around the globe.
I ask if more than 40 years of travel has worn him out. But no, Pelley, an award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent, is always ready for the next assignment.
“I’m 61 and by God, I still enjoy getting on a plane,” says Pelley though he does admit he gets a little tired of going to the same place over and over. “But I never tire of going someplace new, whether it’s nice or not.”
So where hasn’t Pelley been that he’d like to see.
“Anyplace that doesn’t have a pin stuck in it on my world map,” he says. “I’ve been to both the Artic and Antarctica numerous times, but I’ve never made it to poles though I’ve been just a few miles away, so I’d like to get there. And I’ve never been to Portugal and I’ve heard it’s very pretty.”
Portugal? From a man who is a multimillion mile flyer and has covered stories in the remote jungles of Mexico, reported on the genocides in Darfur, was onsite when the planes hit the World Trade Center and watched first responders’ stream into the building, many to never come out, hoping to find survivors, He also was on the ground during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1990 and the 1991 invasion of Iraq (indeed, he’s seems to have visited Iraq as many times as most people go to the grocery store) and joined, with his team, the U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. Getting to Portugal, it would seem, would be a piece of cake.
But then Pelley may be too busy. He’s won 37 Emmys—of course, he says it’s due to the many wonderful and capable people who back him up and make him look good—and despite his passion for action, likes to ponder as well.
“I called my first chapter ‘Gallantry,’” he says about his book. “I was in Paris several years ago shortly after ISIS’s terrorist attack and I watched people holding a memorial on the cobblestone streets with candles in their hands and it struck me that I had seen that same look before, at the World Trade Center and in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. It’s a look I’d seen it again and again throughout my entire career, people wondering what the meaning of life is. I got to thinking, don’t ask the meaning of life. Life is asking: ‘What’s the meaning of you?’ And that’s what I went looking for in my book, people who have discovered how to get meaning, people who are heroes.”
Maybe, in a way, Pelley is a hero as well. He reveals in his book how he lost his long time job as CBS Evening News anchor after complaining too vociferously about the way men and, especially women were treated at the network. He took his complaints all the way up to CBS Corporate Chairman Les Moonves, who spent over an hour listening to Pelley’s concerns. Obviously, hoping to forestall any more action on Pelley’s part, his contract wasn’t renewed despite his show’s high ratings. Ironically, Moonves would be fired in turn, because of sexual harassment allegations.
Losing his job is okay now, says Pelley because he’s grateful for the direction CBS is taking, how they cleaned house and are acting with integrity.
Yes, definitely half-full.
“I think a sense of optimism is important for a reporter,” he says. “That and empathy. If you have that empathy for that person you have emotional stake in their lives.”
What: Join in a conversation, Q&A, and book signing with Scott Pelley
When: Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Where: Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Lane, Naperville, IL
Cost: Ticket for one person costs $37.74 w/service fee and includes one copy of the Pelley’s new book; the ticket package admits two and costs $42.99 w/service fee and includes on copy of the book. Tickets can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/4243153 and entitles the holder to
meet and get a photograph with the author and a personalized signature.
FYI: The event is hosted by Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com