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Lester Holt Looks Back – and Forward – as ‘NBC Nightly News’ Celebrates 70 Years

Even as NBC News takes a moment to celebrate the history of its flagship evening newscast, Lester Holt says he’s ready to keep covering the history of the modern world.

NBC Nightly News” staffers and NBC News executives paused for a few moments Wednesday night to nod to 70 years of the newscast (which also comprises “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” and “Camel News Caravan”). While all forms of media have changed to accommodate  new forms of digital consumption, Holt said in an interview, some things have to remain the same. “We still adhere to the basic values of a broadcast that tries to rise above the fray, tries to give a broad view and provides perspective. Those things haven’t changed for over 70 years.”

Newscast staffers attended the event at NBCUniversal’s 30 Rockefeller Center headquarters, along with producers and executives. Tom Brokaw, who served as the program’s anchor between 1982 and 2004, was in attendance, as was Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, was also present.

Holt said producers have in recent months tried to make “Nightly” stand out by relying more heavily on scoops and exclusive interviews from its own staff of reporters. “It’s very clear that most viewers, most regular viewers of the evening news by the time they sit down they know the headlines of the day,” he said. “They know that Gary Cohn is resigning, They know there’s a snowstorm. We have to do something that adds value.” That can come in the form of a new emphasis on reporting from NBC News’ investigative team, for example, or an exclusive sit-down with Vice President Mike Pence in South Korean during the Olympics. “We are very accustomed now to the news changing abruptly at 5 p.m.,” he said, before the evening broadcast.

During his tenure on “Nightly,” Holt has placed importance on getting out to big news events, as well as reporting on topics like technology. “We certainly travel more than the broadcast has traveled before. Part of that is my fascination with going places,” said the anchor. “I think there’s an expectation now, the audience understands when something big happens, they are going to see me fly out the door.”

While much has been made of the challenges faced by many of the evening newscasts – a populace that works later and faces a longer commute home; a longstanding decline in the number of people who watch the programs on a linear basis – Holt believes the show will be around for a long while, even if its is experienced as “pixels on wallpaper” at some point in the not-too-distant future . “I always say that I have no idea where the future of the platform will go,” Holt said. “I know we’ll adapt to them.”


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