Lester Holt Leads 'NBC Nightly News' To No. 1, And 8 More Reasons He Should Replace Brian Williams For Good
Since Brian Williams was suspended for six months in February for telling a false account of his brush with the Iraq War, his network colleague Lester Holt has been filling in for him on NBC Nightly News. After a month as the interim weeknight host, Holt has kept NBC Nightly News at No. 1 among all viewers in all key demographics for the second week in a row, helping the show surpass its average viewership numerous times. In other words, Holt is doing something right, and it might be wise for NBC to keep him where he is.
Taking on Williams' job as weeknight host of NBC Nightly News wasn't much of a stretch for Holt, who was already the anchor of the weekend edition of the program and had substituted for Williams in the past during vacations and medical leaves. But besides a classy and seamless transition, Holt has not only maintained the show's ratings, but he buoyed them to levels perhaps unexpected of an interim host.
According to Deadline, a Holt-anchored Nightly News has led NBC to top both ABC and CBS with its widest total-viewer margins in four weeks — that's the exact time frame that Holt's been filling in for Williams. Furthermore, the show has attracted more than 10 million viewers numerous times in recent weeks, exceeding its average of 9.4 million viewers for the season. These statistics hopefully send the network a very clear message: In looking for a permanent replacement for Williams, their best choice might already be doing the job.
Ratings stats aside, here are eight other reasons why Lester Holt should be the permanent weeknight host of NBC Nightly News.
He's Incredibly Seasoned
Holt's long career in broadcast journalism started almost 35 years ago, when he joined CBS's local affiliate in New York City in 1981 as a reporter. In 1986, Holt moved to Chicago, where he anchored the evening news for 14 years at WBBM-TV.
Holt joined the NBC family in 2000 as a reporter for MSNBC. That year, he got his first big break when he reported a segment on the Air France Concorde crash and basically took over for the anchors because he has an extensive knowledge of aviation.
In 2003, he joined NBC News full-time as a substitute anchor for NBC Nightly News and Today. In 2007, he became the full-time co-anchor of the NBC Nightly News weekend edition and in 2011, he became the lead anchor of Dateline, a primetime crime program.
He's As Professional As They Come
According to colleague testimonials, Holt is a very well-liked and respected guy. Amy Holmes, who worked with Holt at MSNBC, told The Daily Beast:
My limited experience as a contributor, way back when watching the anchors do their thing, was that Lester was always gracious and low-key, doing his job with professionalism. I saw a couple not-to-be-named anchors throw tantrums. Maybe they were justified, who knows? But I do know that Lester was never one of them.
He Rolls With The Punches
She added that his professionalism allowed him to be flexible:
He had a very grounded view of TV, rolling with all of the constant changes to his anchor time slot: 7 p.m. one week, 5 p.m. the next.
He Puts The Job First
Another colleague, who requested to remain anonymous, echoed that description:
I watched my colleagues agitating to succeed David Gregory on Meet The Press with naked ambition, but you’d never see that kind of thing from Lester. Because, until now, he works weekends, he doesn’t travel with the same entourage as the other big presenters.
It's this trait that makes Holt appear to be filling in for Williams not for the sake of opportunity, but out of a sense of duty.
NBC colleague Soledad O’Brien also had praise for Holt, telling The Daily Beast:
He’s fantastic, smart, a hard-working colleague, experienced, a dedicated newsman—every positive adjective. He’s also a great dad.
He's A Great Leader
When Holt replaced Ann Curry as host of Dateline in 2011, executive producer David Corvo said, "[Holt]’s a terrific anchor, he’s an excellent reporter and a great team leader — all the things you need to do to run a show."
He Can Cover A Wide Range Of Topics
Besides covering more serious issues like the Iraq War and the Haiti earthquake, Holt is also willing to show a more lighthearted side by hosting the Westminster Dog Show and making appearances on 30 Rock, similar to the cameos that Williams made. Holt, who is also a bass enthusiast, has even played with The Roots on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
He Wants The Job
But perhaps the most significant reason to consider Holt for the weeknight anchor position? He wants the job. He told the New York Daily News in 2007 right after being hired as the weekend anchor:
I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to anchor a weekday show someday.
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