Lester Holt, who is filling in for suspended NBC anchor Brian Williams, is generating some media attention of his own.
A source in a New York Times story described Holt as "a total pro, pleasant, unflappable, intelligent."
USA Today cited Holt's "versatility and zeal to jump on assignments."
A producer quoted by the Washington Post characterized Holt as "a terrific anchor ... an excellent reporter and a great team leader."
Over at "The Deacon's Bench," blogger Greg Kandra — a Roman Catholic deacon who spent three decades as a writer and producer for CBS News — was curious about Holt's religious background:
When Lester Holt took over for Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News last week, little was said about his personal life — or one aspect of it that plays a prominent role: his faith.
I was curious about what his religious background might be, so did a little Googling and came upon this interview from a few years back. I have to say: I’m impressed. This sort of unabashed piety and public profession of faith is rare in journalism — and, I think, almost unprecedented for the anchor of a network news cast.
Kandra linked to a 2010 story from The Christian Chronicle headlined "Anchor for his soul: Lester Holt reflects on faith and journalism." I'm familiar with that story because I wrote it:
NEW YORK — For the longest time, Lester Holt would finish the Sunday edition of NBC’s "Today" show at 9 a.m., just when services began at the Manhattan Church of Christ.
When the elders moved the start time to 9:30, no one was happier than Holt.
“I don’t know if it was a personal favor to me, but it really has helped,” a chuckling Holt told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the "Today" studios. “For a long time, I’d get off at 9, and then I’d have to bugaloo over there and get there about the third or fourth song before communion.
“I was the guy kind of sneaking in. Now, I have a little more time.”
For Holt, 50, who also is weekend anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” Sunday worship has been a part of his life as long as he can recall.
“Lester is a humble and loving Christian — a faithful member of our congregation who doesn’t seek attention to himself,” said Dave Swearingen, an elder at the 400-member Manhattan church. “He often helps to lead our worship, and his remarks are always an inspiration to us.”
In my interview with Holt, he discussed how his faith informs his journalism:
Often, Holt is asked whether it’s hard to be a person of faith in his profession.
Whenever that question is posed, he said, the implication seems to be that “this business is not for people of faith.”
“I think there’s a connotation that we’re the liberal, atheist media,” Holt said. “And I know a lot of people in this business who are people of faith — maybe not this specific faith that I share, but people who believe in God and follow their faith. So I don’t find it hard.
“In fact, I find in many ways that this job is a blessing, in that as a journalist, I really get to see life in all its permutations. ... I see death. I see people going through the depth of tragedy, and I see people going through the highest of things. It just reminds you of how short life is ... and I think it’s the kind of thing that in many ways is faith-affirming.”
Just a few months after covering Hurricane Katrina, Holt also reflected on faith and the media in a 2005 speech at Abilene Christian University, a Texas university associated with Churches of Christ:
It is particularly timely that you would invite me here this evening to talk about faith and the media, because ultimately, Hurricane Katrina is very much a story about the power of faith and the power of the media.
We all witnessed people who had lost most, if not all, of their material possessions, and they looked into the TV cameras and […] they declare their thankfulness to God that they and their families survived. And they expressed a faith that they’ll be OK, and they’ll overcome this cruel blow — "I have what matters." I heard that time and time again. And you know, what I didn’t hear very often was "Why me?" And I kind of looked at those people and I thought "You know, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be saying 'Why me?' because this is awfully bad."
Since taking over for Williams, Holt seems to be focusing on his job, not media interviews. The Post said he "did not respond to a request for comment via NBC."
If and when Holt starts talking about himself, it'll be interesting to see if reporters ask him about his faith. I hope they do.