NBC News Anchor and Correspondent Lester Holt recently spoke to IWU Communication students about his life in television news and how his Christian faith informs his work.
Holt was in Marion working on a story for Dateline NBC on the 1992 disappearance of IWU student Tricia Reitler. He took time away from a busy day of interviewing just to speak to Communication students who filled IWU’s TV studio. Holt is a longtime member of the Church of Christ and has been open about his faith through his years of national prominence, most recently as host of the Weekend Today program, Weekend Nightly News and Dateline NBC. But he told IWU students, “The truth is a lot of people don’t bring their faith to the office..and I don’t discuss the specifics of my faith with people.” This partly comes from his desire, as a journalist, to show fairness and balance in his reporting.
Holt has been all over the world for NBC and arrived at IWU’s campus hours after flying in from Italy, covering a prominent murder trial. He says his faith sustains him through stories that are difficult to report such as crime, war or human suffering. He said, “what I hope I bring to the job is compassion,” for the stories and situations. He encouraged the students to be engaged in the world as he has tried to be while reporting news stories both good and bad. “The power of your faith is being a part of the world and letting people see…you and your faith in action,” he said.
Holt also offered a little career advice, noting the Com Division’s media facilities and WIWU-TV were great places for students to begin learning the craft of journalism. “What you learn here now is the kind of skills that will immediately transfer into most newsrooms in America.”
After a few photos and some kind personal words with students, Holt was back to work, doing interviews with his crew in the IWU Student Center before flying home to New York the next day. He said even though he was “running on fumes” from all the travel, he would still volunteer for the next big breaking news story because he loves reporting. “The glamour part of (TV news) will wear off in a hurry if you don’t have a fire in your belly to tell good stories,” he said.