NBC’s Lester Holt, ABC’s Robin Sproul and CBS’ Bill Plante accepted their First Amendment Awards from the RTDNF last night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. The awards ceremony was hosted by Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
In his speech accepting the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award, Holt recalled advice from his mentor, the late Jerry Nachman, former vice president of MSNBC.
“The most important thing he told me was that the highest calling in what we do is being a reporter, and that has been really the guiding principle throughout my career,” Holt said. “You can call any fancy title you want — principal anchor, executive producer, news director — at its essence, we are all reporters. That’s what we should be, that’s what we should aspire to be, and that’s what makes us good at what we do.”
Robin Sproul, ABC’s Washington bureau chief, said in her speech accepting the First Amendment Service Award that the “time in which anyone can be a broadcaster” has raised many more questions and challenges to the First Amendment.
“All of these issues require vigilance and constant attention even as news bureaus in DC — those that watch the government — shrink because of the changing news business models, more challenges of the digital age,” Sproul said. “But these are good fights to have. And as Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.’”
CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, who was honored with the RTDNF’s Lifetime Achievement Award, reflected on how the news business has changed since he began his career at CBS in 1964.
“When I began covering the White House in 1981, the news on the three broadcast networks every night at 6:30 Eastern was generally the consensus product of the journalism establishment. The public had few other places to go,” he said. “Today, of course, you can get news from many sources. And choice is good. But it also means that you can choose the news you want to hear, whether it’s been rigorously validated or not. And even though there are now many voices competing for your attention … it’s still more important than ever for us to live by the best practices of journalism.”
Watch the acceptance speeches here.