Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Keith at Bag of Nothing recently brought up Scott Pelley of CBS News. That made me recall my "Brush With Greatness". Back in 1983 I was a long haired street urchin (a/k/a DJ) at KWCS-FM. I also worked as a stringer (freelance reporter) for WFAA-TV. It was a particularly slow news day, but there was a huge tire fire just outside Bridgeport so I called it in to Hugh Scalon that ran the newsroom. They sent "Telecopter 8" to cover the story with a news crew led by an up and coming young reporter, Scott Pelley.
It was after dark by the time they reached the fire and the pilot was worried about trying to land near power lines and small trees. Hugh called me back at the radio station and I wound up being a Forward Air Controller via relay. I told them about the only helipad I knew of at the old Bridgeport Hospital but the pilot couldn't locate it.
"Do you see the Dairy Queen sign? Go 3 blocks west."
With that problem solved, now they were over a mile away and needed ground transportation. Being a responsible employee entrusted with watching the transmitter and programming, I naturally turned everything on automatic and left. I had about 90 minutes of music and commercials if nothing screwed up. To be honest, I did call another employee that lived next door and asked him to monitor the station for me, just in case.
I hopped in my tiny Dodge Shelby Charger 2.2 and ran into town. It was the pilot, a 3 man news crew and their ENG (Electronic News Gathering) gear jammed into my little sports car. Cameras, portable VCR's and their batteries were huge back then. The sound guy was forced to ride in the hatchback. We drove out to the fire with Scott asking me questions about the area all the way there.
After they got what they needed we headed back to the helo. When they got out I apologized for the cramped ride and told them I had to hurry back to the station before my tapes ran out. Scott walked up to me, shook my hand and thanked me for all the help. The other guys said thanks and waved but, Scott took the extra step to shake my hand and look me in the eye. That always stuck with me. He was genuine, the real deal and not a whiff of BS about him. Definitely not your typical "TV talent".
I knew from that moment that Scott Pelley was going places. I had no idea it would be Walter Cronkite's seat. But if ever there was anyone worthy of continuing the tradition of Murrow and Cronkite, it's Scott Pelley.
In 2009 Scott was asked to give the Commencement Speech at Texas Tech. Being a native of Lubbock and a former Tech student (he dropped out to take the job at KXAS) he proudly accepted. His speech was moving and inspirational. He's the same genuine, no BS guy. He is indeed the real deal. It's well worth 20 minutes of your time to hear him speak about "The Test".
UPDATE: Seems my opinion is shared by those that matter. Scott was just named recipient of the 20th annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award.