Lester Holt, NBC Nightly News anchor and award-winning journalist, broadcast the network’s evening news show from the rooftop of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Friday, Nov. 5 as part of his five-day “Across America” anchoring tour.
Phoenix was the last stop on the tour that included Austin, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Washington D.C. and Nashville, Tennessee.
Holt arrived at the Cronkite School at Arizona State University’s Downtown Campus at 10:30 a.m. to interview a reunited Afghan family in the Elizabeth Murphy Burns and Richard Burns Theater. In the afternoon, he was escorted to the sixth floor to meet his team of engineers, sound technicians and producers to prepare for the Nightly News broadcast.
Holt’s visit to the Cronkite School also included a Q&A with Dean Battinto L. Batts Jr. and students — an event requested by Holt — so that he could answer students’ questions about the journalism profession.
About 200 students, parents and alumni attended the event. Students asked questions ranging from the impact of being the first black man to solo anchor a weekday network nightly newscast to whether his celebrity image helps or hampers his role as a journalist.
Batts asked Holt to consider what he would tell his younger self, knowing what he knows now.
“Come to this school!” he said, referring to Cronkite. Also, “spend less time trying to climb the ladder and more time enjoying the view.”
As a preeminent broadcast journalist, Holt was selected to moderate the first presidential debate of 2016, which was the most-watched debate in American history. Holt told the crowd that it was the “hardest job by far.”
“It was a moment of fulfillment and incredible relief when it was over,” he said.
Holt also told the future journalists that they have a responsibility to society.
“Trust is the center of what we do,” he said. “People need to see us as human beings.”
This wasn’t Holt’s first visit to the Cronkite School. Holt was honored with the prestigious Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award in 2019 at a ceremony attended by more than 1,000 media, business and community leaders as well as Cronkite School students and supporters.
Holt has anchored the flagship NBC broadcast since 2015, following eight years as anchor of the newscast’s weekend edition and 12 years as co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY.” He also leads NBC’s special reports, major breaking news and primetime political coverage and has served as principal anchor of “Dateline NBC” since 2011.
Holt joined NBC News in 2000 and is most known for his on-the-ground reporting and his deep commitment to providing viewers with first-person accounts of major news events. He has covered more than a dozen natural disasters, including the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Irma, the California wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the growing tensions between North Korea and the United States in 2018, and every Olympics on the ground since the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Before becoming co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY” in 2003, Holt anchored “Lester Holt Live,” a daily news show on MSNBC. Holt served as a primary anchor for MSNBC’s coverage of major news events, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Afghanistan, and he was the lead daytime anchor for MSNBC’s coverage of Decision 2000.
Holt came to MSNBC after 14 years at WBBM-TV in Chicago where he served as the afternoon and evening news anchor. After studying government at California State University in Sacramento, he began his television journalism career as a reporter at WCBS-TV in New York in 1981. The following year he moved to Los Angeles to report for KCBS-TV (then KNXT) before returning to WCBS in 1984.
In addition to the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award, Holt has been recognized with numerous honors, including multiple Emmy Awards and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award. In 2017, he was honored with Quinnipiac University’s Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. In 2016, Holt received several notable designations: he was featured on TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” list, The Hollywood Reporter’s “Most Powerful People in New York” list and was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists.