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Lester Holt – The Savior of NBC News?

Lester Holt – The Savior of NBC News?

First
things first – I have to confess that I am not a fan of NBC anchorman Lester
Holt. I find him stiff, stuffy and corny, like some parody of a news anchorman from some time warp out of the 1960’s.
But he’s actually bearable, compared to his son Stefan Holt, who’s a morning
anchorman in Chicago, and who is so nauseously cornball and revoltingly square that
he makes dad look like Lil Wayne.

But in the
long run, that might be neither here nor there, simply for the fact that Holt
has, once again, saved NBC News from disaster. And he’s done it before.

After joining
NBC News in 2000, following what was considered a failed stint as an anchorman
for the CBS station in Chicago, Holt became something of a darling at NBC when
he anchored a newscast for some 12 hours straight, without taking a break, during
the 9/11 World Trade Towers tragedy. After that they started calling
him “Iron Pants” Holt around the network.

Since that impressive
feat, Holt has been regarded by the network as their “go to” guy whenever they, in effect, needed an on air plug to fill up a hole. Always something of a “second
tier” B-List talent and never quite being an A-lister at NBC News like Tom
Brokow, Matt Lauer and Brian Williams, Holt, for the last 15 years, has been a
consistent presence as a national and world reporter, a sub anchor “NBC Nightly
News,” sub co-host and weekend host on “The Today Show,” and the host of “Deadline
NBC.”

However, back
in February, when the network forced Brian Williams into a six month suspension for lying about an near death incident while covering the Iraqi war, and destroying
the integrity of the entire news division, it was no surprise that Holt was
immediately tapped to take over for Williams until he returned.

But that’s
the thing. Right now, it’s iffy if Williams will ever return. According to
reports last week, the network has been conducting an ongoing investigation of
Williams, and they have found out that, not only did he lie about that Iraq experience,
but that he also lied about a bunch of other stuff too – as many as 11 other
false stories he claimed he had experienced while covering news events.

Some at the
network reportedly want to get rid of the problem once and for all, and fire
Williams outright. But Williams is saying he doesn’t intend to leave, and is
planning to come back once his suspension is over and pretend as if nothing had
happened.

But the damage has already been done, and bringing him back would not do anything for the news
division’s reputation, other than make it a laughing stock in the industry.

The other
fact of the matter is that, since Williams has been gone, the “NBC
Nightly News” with Holt has been doing very well in terms of ratings. In fact, last week, the newscast was No 1 in the ratings, beating “ABC World News Tonight” by a
slight lead, and the “CBS Evening News” by over a million viewers.

Though Holt’s
newscast has experienced a drop in viewers, that drop had already taken place
while Williams was anchoring the show, and Holt has held his own, keeping a lead
over his rivals

Which bring
up the question: since Holt has proven himself time and time again, why
bother to bring back Williams, when his suspension is over?

As I said earlier, he is damaged goods and a possible return to the newscast would be a distraction, if anything else. Though Williams did renew his contract last fall with NBC for
$10 million a year, for 5 years, is it worth it for the network to keep him?

Better for
them to pay Williams some sort of settlement and send him off on his way to do
what he really always wanted to do – host a late night comedy talk show (according
to a very revealing and devastating article about the Williams debacle in Vanity
Fair last month) – and leave Holt where he is and to finally join the A-listers with
an equal salary.

Don’t you
agree?

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