NBC News anchor Lester Holt received the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award from Washington State University Tuesday evening, an honor given to those who demonstrate a commitment to excellence.
In his acceptance speech, the longtime journalist offered his advice to others in the field, emphasizing the value of truth-telling.
"I think it's become clearer that fairness is overrated," he said. "Before you run with or tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention."
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Holt, 62, cited "recent events," as evidence for his statement.
"I know recent events assure you won't have to look far to find more current and relevant examples," he continued. "Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda. In fact, it's just the opposite. Providing an open platform for misinformation, for anyone to come say whatever they want, especially when issues of public health and safety are at stake, can be quite dangerous."
"Our duty is to be fair to the truth. Holding those in power accountable is at the core of our function and responsibility," he said. "We need to hear our leader's views, their policies and reasoning. It's really important, but we have to stand ready to push back and call-out falsehoods."
Holt went on to clarify that "fact checking is not a vendetta or attack."
"We must help our audiences understand what our role is in a healthy democracy. Because if we're not asking the right questions, who is?" he said. "Imagine, if you would, what the pandemic would look like without the media holding leaders to account for vaccines rollouts or countering harmful misinformation or why some communities are being left behind."
"Regard for truth must regain a foothold in our society so that we can weather the storms of tomorrow's calamities. Tomorrow's pandemics," Holt added.
On Wednesday, Holt's colleagues at NBC congratulated him for his award, with Today's Al Roker tweeting, "So well deserved. An honor to work with @LesterHoltNBC."
On Today, anchor Savannah Guthrie added that the team is "really proud" of Holt, joking that "now there will be no living with Lester in the halls at NBC News!"
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