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“The anchor piece is the least important thing I do every day,” he said. “It’s the most visible, but it’s the least important thing. The managing editor job is the most important at the end of the day.”

Like Rather and Schieffer, Pelley is a Texan. The San Antonio native began his career as a 15-year-old copyboy at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and worked as a local news reporter in Lubbock and Dallas before catching on with CBS.

Evening newscasts have steadily dwindled in importance over the past few generations, but on a typical evening more than 20 million people watch news summaries at ABC, CBS or NBC, far more than anything on cable news. Pelley has a challenge in front of him: The pecking order of NBC’s “Nightly News” with Brian Williams in first and ABC’s “World News,” for the past year with Diane Sawyer, in second, rarely changes.

“The last thing Scott needs from me is advice,” Williams said Tuesday. “Or packing instructions. He’s a fellow road warrior and a first-rate journalist, and he’s filling a great chair. All I can offer is a hearty welcome to a highly competitive time slot, along with my congratulations.”

If Pelley has a weakness in critics’ eyes, it is that some see him as stiff and formal _ the same things people said of Williams when he first started in 2004. Williams is now the subject of a New York magazine article on his comic stylings, and on Monday made a comfortable appearance on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

“I don’t do comedy,” Pelley said, “although I appreciate Brian’s comedy very much.”

He said he hoped viewers who don’t know him well will understand him as much like themselves, as a person who came from a small town and modest circumstances. “I have lived the American dream that we all aspire to,” he said.