Monday, February 16, 2015

Welcome Lester Holt

With the departure of Brian Williams, NBC weekend news anchor and frequent substitute main anchor Lester Holt, has been named as interim weekday anchor for a six month period.  He is a much needed new face in an anchor chair at a major network, any cable network, and even PBS.  While he will operate under the strictures of a network news format and its limitations,  he has been viewed here positively.  It seems as if he knows what he is talking about and is not playing some made up role, that he is being himself.  He does not appear to be robotic, or totally scripted for words such as the slightest aside or joke and even for facial expressions and intonation, or full of himself.  These attributes may apply in different ways to some of his competitors.

Without getting into saying personal things about some of the regulars, or too much so, here there has been a distinct lack of identification with or interest in most of the people in these roles.  When choosing to watch network news, the 30 minute shows to cover the world that have six minutes of commercials, 16 minutes of real news (sort of real news as they often obsess about one news item for 8 minutes of the 16),  4 minutes of random "human interest" stories, and 4 minutes of cute dog or baby news, it had not been an easy choice of late.  Sort of sad, "and that's the world today".

What was focused on here in recent years was NBC, solely due to the Middle East reporting of Richard Engel, solid smart brave reporting.  Then in late 2012 he and his crew were captured in Syria by either Assad militia or some random anti-Assad force and for five days were not treated well at all. They were fortunately released, but the ordeal seemed to have had a significant impact on Engel as it would on almost anyone.  He had taken huge risks for years, but had been fortunate.  After what he went through, he did not seem the same for awhile, but now he's back in good form as an analyst but maybe a little more out of harm's way.

His trauma meant switching around for the last two years if watching at 6:30pm, or relying on PBS News Hour which does not completely work with me for several reasons(though both Judy Woodruff and Margaret Warner can be exceptional), or waiting for a few sound bites from Jon Stewart to come on at 11pm.  Holt's appointment is perfect timing for now.

For the first time ever tonight I watched or mostly listened to Entertainment Tonight on NBC at 7pm and if you don't know the show there's nothing missed.  Tonight the teaser for the show suggested that part of the 40th anniversary SNL show after party would be shown, a part with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Taylor Swift leading a band of blues musicians.  The maybe 10 second clip suggested that it would be worth seeing.  So I left the television on while sitting in an adjacent room on the computer.

The teaser event never came on, but what I did hear were three mentions by the inane hosts of this "NBC" show that Katie Couric was interested in William's former job, and even finally a brief interview with her doing a sort of sweetie talk about "oh not me".  This was annoying.  Lester Holt is a capable and experienced reporter who may prove to be the best choice for the job.  That he would be undermined by his own network on the second day of his "interim" assignment is unseemly.  We will see how he does in the ratings and since he really has no competition, he may do well.

He will be tied up by the rigidity of the network news system at the start, but if he would eventually be given more flexibility, there is the belief here that he has the capability to put a more human face on an anchor chair.


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