Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award: Lester Holt, NBC News
RTDNF presents this award annually to a radio or television journalist or news executive who has made a major contribution to the protection of First Amendment freedoms. It is named for the late Broadcasting & Cable senior correspondent, Leonard Zeidenberg.
Lester Holt was named Principal Anchor of “Dateline” in September 2011. Holt serves as the weekend anchor for the flagship broadcast “NBC Nightly News,” and is also the co-anchor of the weekend edition of “Today.” In addition, Holt serves as fill-in anchor and correspondent for “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” and the weekday “Today” program. He also contributes to MSNBC, NBC’s 24-hour cable news network.
Holt joined the NBC News family in 2000 and has reported from many of the world's hot spots. In 2003 he reported from the Kuwait/Iraqi border as US forces prepared to launch their invasion of Iraq. In 2006, he reported from the front lines in Lebanon on the war between Israel and Hezbollah and from London on the terror threat to U.S. bound-airliners from the UK. In early 2010, Holt traveled to Haiti where he reported on the immediate aftermath and response to the devastating earthquake. In early 2011, Holt reported from the streets of Cairo on the latest political and civil unrest in Egypt. In March 2011, Holt travelled overseas to cover the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan. Other major international stories he has covered include the mysterious 2009 crash of an Air France jetliner over the South Atlantic. Holt was also among the early wave of reporters to cover the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He was in the same region in 2005 when both hurricanes Katrina and Rita came ashore.
Over the last year, Holt has covered a wide range of stories for “Dateline.” In August 2011 – telling the story of the larger struggle in the American economy to lower unemployment – Holt reported from Millen, Georgia, a small industrial town so devastated by the Great Recession that its unemployment numbers were more than twice the national average. In January of this year, Holt conducted an exclusive interview with Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, and the following month, he anchored a special “Dateline” tribute to legendary singer, actress and producer Whitney Houston, who had died suddenly the day before. In March 2012, Holt reported from Sanford, Florida on the latest in the Trayvon Martin case and in June 2012 – as part of “Dateline’s” Emmy award-winning series, “America Now” – Holt reported on suburban poverty in America, sharing the shocking and personal stories of families confronting poverty for the very first time.
Before becoming co-anchor of "Weekend Today," Holt anchored "Lester Holt Live," a daily news show on MSNBC in which he covered breaking news and provided news updates and analysis. Holt has also served as the lead anchor for daytime news and breaking news coverage on MSNBC. He has served as a primary anchor for MSNBC's coverage of the biggest news events of the last several years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war in Afghanistan, and he was the lead daytime anchor for MSNBC's coverage of Decision 2000. Holt also served as anchor of "Countdown: Iraq," a nightly news telecast concentrating on the latest developments surrounding the war with Iraq, from October 2002 through March 2003.
The award-winning broadcast journalist came to MSNBC from WBBM-TV in Chicago, where he spent 14 years. His duties at WBBM-TV included anchoring the evening news. Holt not only worked at the anchor desk in Chicago, but he also reported extensively from trouble spots around the world including Iraq, Northern Ireland, Somalia, El Salvador and Haiti. He has contributed to the CBS News broadcast "48 Hours," earning a 1990 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award for his work on "48 Hours: No Place Like Home." In 2010, Holt was part of the “Today” anchor team that won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Morning Program.
Previously, Holt worked as a reporter at WCBS-TV in New York City from 1981-82. In 1982 he transferred to sister station KCBS-TV (then KNXT) in Los Angeles as a reporter and weekend anchor and returned to WCBS-TV a year later as a reporter and weekend anchor.
Holt studied government at California State University in Sacramento.
Other honorees include Gannett's Dave Lougee, ABC's Robin Sproul, the Associated Press and CBS' Bill Plante. All will be profiled on rtdna.org in the coming weeks. To order your tickets or to sponsor the event, please click on the links below: