Lester Holt wasn’t expecting to permanently replace Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News. In fact, Holt barely knew what was going on with the situation as he filled in for Williams on the program.
“The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t being told anything about [Williams],” Holt told the New York Daily News Monday. “For lack of a better term, there was a ‘firewall’ between me and all that. I accepted that my role was to fill in for six months, and there were never any discussions [with NBC executives] about where or what this all might lead to — so I tried to keep my head down.”
Holt said he tried to avoid reading up on the happenings, but ultimately did the opposite, and received most of his updates on the Williams situation from outside NBC sources. Last Thursday, Holt learned he’d be taking over for Williams full-time.
“This is not anything that I ever imagined,” Holt told the Daily News. “Like any young broadcaster, at one point in my life I said to myself that I wanted to be the next Walter Cronkite, or the anchor of a nighttime news show. But in recent years it’s not something that I’ve aspired to or thought about. There were only three of these jobs and they were all filled by capable and talented people. It wasn’t even on my radar. I had cobbled together really terrific jobs here at NBC and had a pretty full plate.”
Those other jobs have included serving as Dateline’s anchor, Nightly News’s weekend anchor and co-anchor of Today’s weekend edition. Holt will give up his weekend jobs, but his fate with Dateline is still unclear. “That’s on a list of many things that are still up for discussion,” Holt says.
Looking ahead, Holt says issues about race will receive priority coverage on Nightly News. “It’s a story that we are committed to telling and it’s a difficult one,” Holt said. “We keep talking about this big conversation about race happening in America, but we need more than just a conversation.”