Breaking news on the West Coast? CBS is on it.
The network began airing a more comprehensive “Western edition” of the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley three months ago. The idea is to give West Coast viewers more relevant broadcasts by swapping out stories to feature West Coast, or breaking, news more prominently.
And while the major networks have all long covered the West, CBS appears to be alone in dedicating a revised broadcast every night to West Coast viewers.
Last Friday's broadcast is a good example of how that focus plays out. Pelley met with California Gov. Jerry Brown in Oakland on Thursday to discuss Brown's re-election campaign and share his thoughts on the drought, for which the governor has declared a state of emergency. The interview ran Friday on the CBS Evening News, which Pelley anchored from CBS' Los Angeles bureau in Studio City. And shortly after the Eastern broadcast was complete, news broke on the military activity in Crimea, which the program used to open its Western edition.
Pelley says, “We always did updates for the West when there was a big breaking story in the West, because we wanted to be right up to date on what's going on. The president of the news division, David Rhodes, several weeks ago came to us and said, 'Why aren't we doing that every day?' It was a great question and so we started doing it every day.”
Pelley stays with the CBS Evening News team after recording the 6:30 p.m. broadcast, which airs live on the East Coast, and then records the Western edition, which airs at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time. He says, “What we do is we look for stories that are a particular interest in the West. We take a story or two out of the broadcast that was a particular interest to the East and put those Western stories in there. Sometimes it's an entire story done by a correspondent, very often from the L.A. bureau. Sometimes it's just a few tells, as we call them, little stories that I tell in the broadcast.” He adds, “That's where it started, and it's been a really great development. I'm really proud of it.”
CBS Evening News' viewership has increased 22 percent since Pelley took over as anchor in June 2011, according to a spokesman. Pelley attributes the growing success of the broadcast to its focus on hard news. CBS Evening News devotes the least amount of time to celebrity and entertainment news — just 0.3 percent of its broadcast, compared with 2 percent at ABC and 1 percent at NBC, according to Pew Research statistics gathered from January to May 2012.
CBS Evening News is currently ranked third behind ABC World News With Diane Sawyer and NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams. Those shows did not respond to our requests for comment.
CBS Evening News executive producer Patricia Shevlin says that the network “just want[s] to make the West Coast feel that we know they're there, that we don't shut the door at 7 o'clock in the East and think, 'That's it for the day,' and nothing changes.”
Editor's note: Two words in this story were changed after publication to clarify the status of CBS' Western-focused broadcasts: They are more comprehensive than previous Western editions of the show.