NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt warned that the news media provides “an open platform for disinformation”, pushing back against the idea that the media should always give both sides of a story equal weight.
Accepting the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from Washington State University, Holt spoke of attacks on the news media, at one point telling the virtual audience, “I think ‘it has become clearer that fairness is overestimated. “
“Before you run around with or tweet that headline, let me explain a bit to you,” he said. “The idea that we should always give both sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun is setting in the west is a fact. Any opinion to the contrary deserves neither our time nor our attention. “
He said “you won’t have to look far to find more current and relevant examples,” but misinformation about the 2020 presidential election and Covid-19 has garnered widespread attention.
“Decisions not to give equal time to unsubstantiated arguments are not a breach of journalistic responsibility or some sort of agenda. In fact, it’s just the opposite, ”said Holt. “Providing an open platform for disinformation, for anyone to come and say whatever they want, especially when public health and safety issues are at stake, can be very dangerous. Our duty is to be fair to the truth. The empowerment of those in power is at the heart of our function and our responsibility. We need to hear our leader’s point of view, his policies and his reasoning. It’s really important. But we must be prepared to push back and expose the lies. “