Lester Holt Blazes Historic Trail To The Top, Becomes First Black Network Anchor

NBC have named Lester Holt permanent anchor of its flagship daily news program, NBC Nightly News. According to reports on NBC.com, Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, made the announcement on Thursday, making the 56-year-old veteran newsman the first African-American solo anchor of a weekday network nightly news program.

The announcement came as no surprise, according to CNN, especially since Holt had been substitute anchor on Nightly News since February, when he stepped into the role following the suspension of erstwhile anchor Brian Williams, who was taken off air following the revelations of fabrications in a story he had filed while covering U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003.

Holt, who was away on vacation when the announcement was made, reacted to the news on Twitter before issuing a full statement in which he described his appointment as “an enormous honor,” according to Politico.


The appointment marks the pinnacle of a career spanning 34 years for the California-born Holt, who spent 19 years at CBS before joining NBC in 2000. Prior to taking over from Williams, Holt had been full-time anchor of the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News as well as the news magazine show Dateline.

Holt’s appointment also holds special significance for African-American journalists as he becomes only the second black anchor on network nightly news, following Max Robinson — who shared the job with two other anchors — on ABC in the late 1970s, according to CNN. Holt is the first to hold the job on his own.

Two other African-Americans, Carole Simpson and Russ Mitchell, have, like Holt, worked as weekend anchors. But, as Richard Prince, a columnist for The Maynard Institute told CNN, the weekday job is the top job and carries a significant distinction.

“It’s about time. Black television journalists have long complained about being consigned to what they call a weekend ghetto.”

Dedrick Russell, vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists, also congratulated Holt in a statement, reported by CNN.

“It is thrilling to see that an African-American will for the first time in television history be the solo anchor of an network evening newscast.”

Lack’s announcement also confirmed that the disgraced Williams, whose six-month suspension lapses in August, will be allowed back into the fold, albeit to the struggling cable news network MSNBC as anchor of breaking news and special reports. It’s a position Williams held between 1996 and 2004 before moving to Nightly News, and according to Politico, this can only be considered a “significant demotion.”

Lester Holt’s promotion, on the other hand, is a step in the right direction.

[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]