Lester Holt Accepts 2019 Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, and Describes Encounter with the Legendary Newsman

By A.J. Katz 

NBC Nightly News and Dateline anchor Lester Holt humbly accepted the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism yesterday during a luncheon at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.

The award is presented by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Rather than lick our wounds, this is journalism’s time to shine, to shine a light in dark places as we never have before, and to hold individuals and institutions of power accountable,” Holt told a crowd of more than 1,000 media, business and community leaders, Cronkite School supporters and students. “That’s what we do. That is our calling. That is what we will do.”


Holt added: “Yeah, we’re getting knocked around a little bit, called ‘enemies of the people.’ But no one is preventing us from doing our jobs, so that’s what we need to do.”

The NBC Newsman also told a story about an encounter with Cronkite in 1980 at CBS HQ in New York while Holt was working as a young radio reporter for CBS News Radio.

“At that moment I found Mr. Cronkite as more than a figure to admire, but rather someone whose career and approach to news I someday hoped to follow,” Holt said. “And you know the rest of this story. That kid today anchors a national evening news program of his own, and now stands before you honored with an award named for Walter Cronkite.”

Anderson Cooper won the Cronkite Award award in 2018, and previous Cronkite Award recipients have included Bob Costas, Bob Schieffer, Robin Roberts, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Katharine Graham, Bob Woodward, Helen Thomas, Ben Bradlee and George Will.

ASU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication was named in honor of the iconic CBS Newser in 1984. Cronkite passed away in 2009.