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Focus on alumni: The Scott Pelley story

News career began at Coronado

Scott Pelley, 1975 graduate of Coronado, took over the anchor chair of The CBS Evening News in 2011.  This is the same spot once occupied by TV News legend Walter Cronkite.

CBS photo by John Filo

Scott Pelley, 1975 graduate of Coronado, took over the anchor chair of The CBS Evening News in 2011. This is the same spot once occupied by TV News legend Walter Cronkite.

Katy Zimmermann, For the Coronado Crest

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Watching the evening news on CBS is actually a way to watch a piece of Coronado’s history. Coronado has many successful alumni, including Scott Pelley of CBS News.

Pelley was born in San Antonio, Texas on July 28th 1957. At some point the Pelley family ventured their way to Lubbock. By the time Pelley was a teenager, he was starting classes at Coronado High School, still less than 10 years old at the time.

“Watching the farming community in Lubbock gave me a deep appreciation for hard work, at the same time, the influence of Texas Tech opened windows for me in terms of culture and the arts,” Pelley said. “Both of these led me to be curious about the world and eager to see it for myself.”

At Coronado, Pelley was in journalism classes with Majorie Wilson. He worked as a photojournalist for The Coronado Crest and for the yearbook.

“I would not be a journalist if it had not been for my journalism class at Coronado,” Pelley said. “My teacher, Marjorie Wilson, had a “fire in the belly” to teach. She made us all believe journalism was the greatest calling of all.”

In addition to his work on the school newspaper and yearbook, Mr. Pelley worked as a copy boy at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal when he was 15 years old. But his greatest experiences came from his work as a photographer at Coronado.

“I was the photographer for the Coronado Crest and for the yearbook so I traveled all over the school experiencing everything from football to theater to computer classes,” Pelley said. “Back then, we had one computer in the entire school and it was locked up in its own room!”

Pelley spent a lot of his time at school developing the film he shot.

“I spent a great deal of time chemically developing film in the darkroom behind the Crest composing room,” Pelley said. “I was there again a year ago and found most of my developing equipment still set up!”

Mr. Pelley says that his journalism teacher Mrs. Wilson had a major impact on his life and his decision to become a journalist.

“Everything I write today is informed by Mrs. Wilson’s principals, get it right, be fair, be honest,” Pelley said. “I remember thousands of photographs over the years and learning composition and photo editing from her. Most of all, she had the greatest attribute of a great teacher, she was patient and let us learn through our mistakes.”

Mrs. Wilson had such a great impact on Mr. Pelley’s life, that he decided to honor her with a journalism scholarship for LISD high school students.

“The scholarship was my wife’s idea,” Pelley said. “ We were on a visit to CHS to film a promotional film for the LISD. I wandered back to the journalism classroom and found it, in many ways, unchanged.”

It was a special moment for Pelley.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude in that moment for the life that journalism made possible for me,” Pelley said. “Jane thought honoring Mrs. Wilson and opening opportunities for Lubbock high school students was a way to repay some of that debt.”

As a result, Mr. Hill and two of the Crest editors, Jessica Pearce and Elizabeth Hansen, travelled to New York to meet Mr. and Mrs. Pelley and attend the week-long journalism camp at Columbia University in 2013. Last year, LISD sent the Lubbock High journalism students to the camp.

After his experiences at Coronado High School Pelley attended journalism school at Texas Tech University. After college he worked at several television stations. Then in 1989 Scott Pelley joined CBS news as a New York-based reporter. Later after his time in New York he returned to Dallas to cover national affairs. Some of Scott Pelleys coverage was the Persian Gulf crisis, Oklahoma City bombing, World Trade center bombing.

Pelley joined “60 Minutes” in 2004 and has been awarded with 24 Emmys, 5 Edward R. Murrow awards and among many other awards was recognized by the Writers Guild of America, Society of Professional Journalists, and others.

In 2011, Pelley took over the news desk at The CBS Evening News, the same anchor chair once occupied by Walter Cronkite.

With all of this success that started as a result of his experiences at Coronado, Pelley believes that journalism is one of the foundations of our democracy.

“The Ebola outbreak shows us, once again, the importance of journalism in our lives,” Pelley said. “ The American people need accurate, dispassionate information to help them assess the risk. This principal applies to everything in our lives. There is no Democracy without journalism. And the quality of our democracy is tied, directly, to the quality of our journalism.”

So what would Scott Pelley recommend to a young person interested in a career in journalism?

“ Study writing and storytelling,” Pelley said. “ I recently spoke to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and I asked, “Mr. Secretary, what is the biggest problem you have running the State Department?” He replied, without missing a beat, “finding young people who can write.” Reporting is all about writing. The reporter must relate what she has learned, concisely, clearly and honestly. Writing is hard work, if you do it right.”

Scott Cameron Pelley
Born in San Antonio, TX   07/28/1957
Coronado High School
Texas Tech University

•    Began his journalism career at the age of 15 at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
•    Joined CBS News as a New York-based reporter in 1989
•    Worked as a White House correspondent from 1997 to 1999
•    assigned for a year to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, during the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990.
•    Was one of the first reporters on the scene after the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001
•    Joined the staff of “60 Minutes” in 2004
•    Inducted into the Texas Tech University alumni Hall of Fame in 2006
•    Assumed the anchor chair at The CBS Evening News in 2011

Family:
Wanda Graves-Pelley – Mother
John Elmer Pelley Jr. – Father
John Pelley – Brother
Jane Boone Pelley – Wife
Blair Pelley – Daughter
Reece Pelley – Son

Pelley’s distinguished body of work for “60 Minutes” has been recognized with 24 Emmys, five Edward R. Murrow awards, three George Foster Peabody awards, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Silver Batons, a George Polk award, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Overseas Press Club of America, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Writers Guild of America.
Pelley has covered a wide variety of breaking news, including the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hurricane Sandy.
Notable Pelley interviews:
President Barack Obama
President George W. Bush
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

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