Wise Words from a Real Pro

Lester Holt: a real pro in the anchor chair.  Photo courtesy NBC, the

Lester Holt: a real pro in the anchor chair.
Photo courtesy NBC, the

Lester Holt contributed the foreword to the textbook I co-wrote on “Power Performance.” After I transcribed my interview with him, I realized it was good enough to stand alone as a finished piece of writing, not just a q and a. He kindly gave permission for me to make some minor changes and adapt it as the foreword to the book. You can read it on the link to the book by clicking “look inside” and scrolling down to the foreword.

Some highlights: Lester started reporting while still in high school and dropped out of college to take a job as a street reporter for an all-news radio station in San Francisco: “I loved breaking news; I was always the guy with the scanner in the car, chasing police cars and fire trucks. Later, when I moved to New York, that experience translated into being very comfortable on TV in front of a live camera and at the anchor desk. You become more conversational because you are telling people a story as opposed to just reading it.

How he prepares for live coverage of a big story: “My preparation is to be aware of the stories we are doing but also scan the wires, read the papers. Be aware that a story that has been bubbling on the back burner of the stove could suddenly flare up. I am constantly making sure that I understand the stories and their bigger meaning. I tell students that one of the most important things we do is give perspective and more information. It’s not just the words, but your tone and what you choose to emphasize.”

On the importance of social media for TV news storytellers: “Sometimes you can’t fit everything into a 90-second Nightly News spot. But you can offer more texture, or still photos, in a blog or a tweet. People know we’re out there and it’s added value. I’m a big proponent of the multimedia revolution because it allows us to do our job better and more efficiently.”

On respect for the people you are covering: “Just because we’re the media doesn’t make us special. It’s crucial to respect the people that we cover and talk to them as equals.”

Lester Holt is blessed with a rich, resonant broadcast voice, but it’s the way he uses his voice that makes him a unique talent. Notice how he naturally speaks in short, direct powerful sentences. Even when he has to read a piece of copy with long sentences and dependent clauses, he breaks it down into meaningful phrases and ideas or “chunks.” I teach this technique of “chunking” the copy and it has made a huge difference for many of my clients. Listen to a sample here .

I never worked with Lester but our paths crossed many times during the years I was at CBS stations. Brian Williams is also interviewed in the book. I worked with Brian at WCBS-TV in New York and it’s sad to see that his inaccuracies cost him the Nightly News anchor chair. NBC was fortunate to have Lester Holt on deck and I’m delighted to see him step into the top job.

You can buy the book through my website. Click here for more information.