Lester Holt Doesn’t Want NBC Nightly News to be ‘All Politics, All the Time’

By A.J. Katz Comment

NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC anchor Lester Holt is celebrating two full years as permanent anchor of The NBC Nightly News. As one might recall, Holt was thrown into the fire after Brian Williams was found to have lied about his role in covering certain news stories, and eventually taken off of the newscast.

Holt, a cool, calm and collected newsman, talked to the AP’s David Bauder about how he has evolved over the two years in the anchor’s chair.

“It was all of this ‘make it your own’ and ‘you’re the guy at the helm’ and ‘act like you own it,'” Holt recalled. “That’s easy for people to say. But under the circumstances, you’re inheriting a successful broadcast, you’re working with a staff that has taken an emotional hit and there’s this whole confidence thing. I’ve always been confident in my abilities, but this was an extraordinary challenge. All these things were coming together and, oh, by the way, you want to maintain the ratings. I’d never been under that kind of pressure before.”

In addition to fostering a reputation as the “most even-handed anchor” (at least according to a group of University of Maryland students), Holt initially did a good job of living up to those ratings standards, and led Nightly to an across-the-board victory in 2016. But the newscast has seen its dominance in basically every metric slip away, with World News Tonight currently holding a slight lead in average overall audience this 2016/2017 season to-date.

That being said, NBC remains No. 1 in the evenings among the demographic that matters most to advertisers: Adults 25-54. In fact, NBC Nightly News has won the demo all 24 months that Holt has been in the chair.

The three evening newscasts in general just aren’t seeing a “Trump bump” in the ratings department that their politics-obsessed cable news counterparts are. Why?

“We’re not tempted to go down the road of ‘all politics, all the time,'” Holt said. “MSNBC does that extraordinarily well. To the extent that it has cost us some viewers, c’est la vie. … Not everybody is interested in the latest presidential tweet, or at least not 15 minutes on it.”