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Lester Holt: Name-Calling From Those in Power Won’t Stop Us

Lester Holt, NBC Nightly News anchor, discussed how things have changed of late for an evening news anchor while accepting an award from the Museum of the Moving Image in Manhattan. 

“Something remarkable has been happening over the last five months that I haven’t encountered in 38 years in this business,” he said. “People are actually thanking journalists. They’re stopping me not as that celebrity guy on TV that they know on the street, but saying, thank you for what you do, thank you for asking tough questions. We need you more than ever to do your jobs.”

Going back the five months that Holt mentioned would take us close to President Trump’s inauguration. 

“As to why that is all happening, I’ll let you discuss that among yourselves,” Holt added, prompting laughs from the crowd. “But it’s gratifying to know there’s a renewed sense of appreciation for free and independent journalism.”

NBC Nightly News was tops in the demo for the week of May 29-June 2, averaging 1.64 million viewers 25-54, leading ABC’s World News Tonight by 169,000 and CBS Evening News by 456,000. NBC averaged 7.1 million total viewers that week, behind ABC’s 7.5 million and ahead of CBS’ 5.7 million. 

Holt and Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, were given the museum’s annual Awards for Achievement in Media and Entertainment.  

Holt said higher expectations from viewers and competition from reenergized print media have pushed TV news professionals to up their game. He stressed how important it is for journalists to remember who they report to. “It’s easy in this business to fall into the trap of trying to impress our peers and forget on whose behalves we are working,” he said. “Journalism shouldn’t be a self-indulgent pursuit—especially at a time like this, there’s no room for hubris or an agenda other than a singular focus on exposing the truth. 

“With truth and integrity on our side,” he added, “no amount of ridicule or name calling from even the highest places can undermine our role.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.