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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Journalist Scott Pelley On The 'Truth Worth Telling'

 June 6, 2019 at 10:34 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 60 minutes corresponded and former CBS evening news anchors. Scott Pelley writes that there was a time he was really looking forward to the 21st century, but after nine 11 and the war against terror and the hyperpartisan swing in politics, everything seemed to change everything he says, but the fact that truth and values matter, the veteran newsman and correspondent is out with a book documenting his experiences around the world following the major stories and the people affected by them. The book is called truth worth telling. A reporter search for meaning in the stories of our times. Scott Pelley is in San Diego speaking about his book and he joins us now. Mr Peli, it's an honor. Speaker 2: 00:43 Maureen, thank you so much. I'm delighted to be with you on KPBS. Speaker 1: 00:47 So far, this century has not quite turned out the way that you were hoping. How have you coped with that? Speaker 2: 00:54 Oh, you know, a doctor, Martin Luther King Junior, as you know, marine was, was fond of a quote from a 19th century ministry. He said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. So that's, that's how I cope with it. I take the long view. Uh, I think, uh, the, the history of humanity is one of constant progress, but it's kind of three steps forward, one step back. But if you take a, if you take the long view, I think you can be filled with faith and hope Speaker 1: 01:26 in truth worth telling. You talk about many of this stories you've covered in the places you've been, but the book is organized around not events but people and the attributes you've observed them to have. Why did you choose to do that? Speaker 2: 01:39 You don't, Maureen, I wanted to write a memoir, but I didn't want to write a memoir about me. Uh, it, it occurred to me that I had met the most interesting people in the world in my 20 years at 60 minutes and 30 at CBS News. And I had seen them discover the meaning of their lives during the historic events of our time. So for example, the first chapter is entitled Gallantry. And it's about what I saw at the World Trade Center when the buildings came down. And it's a tribute to the members of the FD and y the fire department or the city of New York. Speaker 1: 02:14 And one attribute that you write about is Hubris that you observed in both presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and you worry about Americans developing a tolerance for poor leadership. Can you tell us more about that? Speaker 2: 02:29 Well, we live in a time now where the truth can be made to seem a lie and a lie can be made to seem the truth. And I don't think that's what any of us as Americans expect from our leadership. Uh, we had the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 I think that was the beginning of this lying from the White House problem that we have seen so much of. And now we have president Trump. I'm the most nonpartisan person you're ever going to meet. I have that gene. I don't care whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power in Washington. I've met many great republican presidents in my view, in many great democratic presidents in my view. But what I do care a lot about marine, his character, if you have character you can work out just about anything. If you don't have character, nothing is going to work and I'm hoping in this next election the American people will be looking at character more than anything else in choosing a president, Speaker 1: 03:29 even though you don't have the partisan gene was the political state of our that our nation is in right now. Part of the impetus for writing this book, Speaker 2: 03:39 the political state, yes, but also something that worries me a great deal in the information age. I believe that we've moved from the information age seamlessly into the dish information age. Never before has more information been available to more people and that's a great thing. But it is also true that never before has so much bad information been available to more people. What's the fastest way to destroy a democracy? Is it terrorism, war and other great depression? I don't think so. I think the fastest way to destroy a democracy is to poison the information. And as you and I sit in the studio right now, that's exactly what's happening in our world and in our country. Our adversaries, the Russians and North Koreans or Chinese, they've all figured this out. Cynical actors here in our own country, politicians and businessmen are poisoning our information just to win an election or to make a buck and I think this is something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. The American people, the listeners at KPBS need to be tuned into this. What I considered to be an information emergency in our country. Speaker 1: 04:56 How much responsibility do you think the news profession bears for the public snack? Lack of knowledge on issues and their distrust of the information that report is provided. You know I, Speaker 2: 05:09 this is a little self serving and nobody who hears this is going to like hearing it, but I think our readers, viewers and listeners and bear a great deal of that responsibility. When I was coming up there were three television networks as God intended, but today we have limitless sources of information. I'm telling my audiences today that they have a responsibility right now that they never had before. And that is to choose reliable, independent reporting and not believe just anything that happens across the Internet. You know, all of us everyday make choices about what we eat because of our health will now for the first time, we have to make choices about what is good for our brains and what's nutritious for our brains. I tell people, they, people say, well, what do I do? I say, go to name brand news organizations. Go to KPBS, go to CBS, go to NBC, go anywhere you want to go. And the Nice thing about today is you can do that on the internet, but choose a reliable organization that you know is working hard to try to get it right Speaker 1: 06:26 after the 2016 election, you said in response to the question, will we be okay that our constitution and institutions would remain solid no matter what my last question to do? You still think so? Speaker 2: 06:39 I absolutely think so. You know, Walt Whitman said of poets, he who sees the farthest has the most faith though. So again, I take the long view. A friend of mine before the election asked me a question I had never considered, and that was, are we going to be okay? And what I told her, and what I told the viewers of the CBS evening news is that the founders were not surprised by the 2016 election. They knew that was coming someday. And the constitution that they built is a circuit breaker that prevents real damage. Speaker 1: 07:15 Scott Pelley, we'll be speaking about his book, truth worth telling tonight at the University of San Diego's Kroc Institute for Peace and justice. Thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us, Speaker 2: 07:25 marine. Great to be with you on KPBS. Thank you. Speaker 3: 07:29 [inaudible].

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"60 Minutes" correspondent and former "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley joins Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss his new book, "Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times."
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