In Depth

CBS News: ‘60 Minutes: Lifeline’

In an unprecedented occurrence, CBS News’ Scott Pelley has won a Peabody Award in two consecutive years.

Last year, Mr. Pelley, a “60 Minutes” correspondent since 2004, was honored for “The Killings in Haditha,” an interview with Marine Sgt. Frank Woodrich, who lost a comrade to an IED and led his men in a subsequent operation that killed many civilians. This year, Mr. Pelley’s “60 Minutes” story “Lifeline” presented the world of the uninsured and underinsured in America. Mr. Pelley followed a free-clinic mission, originally designed for Third World communities, that set up shop in Tennessee for a weekend and treated hundreds of patients.

“It was a humbling experience to see those people sleeping in their cars, hundreds of them, in the freezing cold of winter, overnight, just to get a chance to see a doctor or a dentist or some patient care,” said Mr. Pelley. “And heartbreaking at the end of that weekend that the RAM [remote area medical] expedition has to wrap up, all the volunteers have to go home, and still there are a few hundred more people who were turned away at the gates just because there’s a limit to what RAM can do on a given weekend.

“RAM had been operating on a budget of about $200,000 a year,” said Mr. Pelley. “But now, they’re expanding their work all over the country. There are going to be some big expeditions this summer, in Ohio and Los Angeles. They have taken every dollar that they’ve gotten from being exposed to the nation via the broadcast and plowed that back into the program and their work.”

For Mr. Pelley, doing this kind of story wasn’t new. “I have seen organizations like this all around the world, in Africa and in Asia, providing emergency medical relief,” he said. “To see one of them here in the United States doing the same for my people, in a situation that wasn’t a natural disaster but a man-made disaster, was very, very troubling.

“There is a large subset of people who need a voice, and when you can do that, I think you’ve reached the highest calling of journalism,” Mr. Pelley said.

When Mr. Pelley received the word that he had won the Peabody for the second year in a row, he was stunned. “In fact, it was so unexpected that before I called the rest of the team to tell them, I called back to make sure that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. It was quite a surprise and an honor as well.”