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100 hours in the CBS newsroom

A retrospective with Scott Pelley on reporting the Boston Marathon bombing one year ago

Last year, at 2:49 p.m. on Monday, April 15th, the first bomb exploded at the finish line at the Boston Marathon, followed by another bomb just seconds later. Three people were killed and dozens were wounded. News organizations around the country immediately embarked on what would become more than 100 hours of fast-paced reporting, ending on Friday evening when the surviving suspect was captured in a dramatic citywide manhunt.

Inside the CBS newsroom on that Monday, anchor Scott Pelley broke into live programming at 3:09 p.m. In the above video interview, Pelley talks with 60 Minutes Overtime's Ann Silvio a year later to share what he learned, day-by-day, during that extraordinary week, which he described on-air as "an unexpected battle in the war on terror."

Shortly after Pelley went live on Monday, dramatic video feeds of Boylston Street in Boston began to arrive in the newsroom. Pelley watched them for the first time as he narrated the scene in real-time for viewers tuning in around the country.

"The faster things are breaking, the more blood you see on the screen, the more people you see screaming, the quieter the anchorman needs to be," Pelley says. "The audience is sitting there seeing all of these horrible pictures, wondering, 'What the hell is happening?' And it's your job to try to bring a little bit of calmness to that and say, 'Here's what we really know."

By late afternoon on Monday, former CBS correspondent John Miller was on the set, reporting at Pelley's side. Pelley describes Miller as his "wingman" that week.

"It was a remarkable week, on so many levels," says Miller, who recently left CBS News for a position in the NYPD. "There are some real milestones in there that people still don't quite understand. One is that you don't have to kill 3,000 people to have an impact as a terrorist. They attacked a city on its proudest day every year, the Boston Marathon."

On Friday of that week, Pelley was on the air for more than 10 hours, narrating the manhunt and capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. For most of it, there were no commercial breaks, no script, and no teleprompter. Pelley finally signed off at 11 p.m. It was the longest stretch of uninterrupted live broadcasting of his career, a day's work he describes as "a great privilege."

"Every journalist is a prisoner of his times," says Pelley, "And you hope if you're going to have a career in journalism, that there are going be some interesting times-- some important things to write about, some public service that you might be able to accomplish. You never know when that's going to happen or if it's going to happen. But when it does, you want to be sure that you do the very best work you can according to the principles and the values that you hold most dear."

"100 hours in the CBS newsroom" was co-produced by Ann Silvio and Lisa Orlando

Scott Pelley
CBS News