DePaul presents inaugural journalism awards to Lester Holt and Ben Welsh

Marissa Nelson
April 27, 2017

"I'm biased," Lester Holt recently told a group of journalism students at DePaul. Describing himself as a heterosexual African American man, Holt explained a journalist must recognize one's biases and use it to diversify the newsroom.

"We should acknowledge that there are certain things that will always shape our view," Holt said.

Lester Holt

'News isn't supposed to make you feel good,' Holt said. 'Sometimes we are going to tell you a story that makes you rethink everything you thought you knew.' (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

On Thursday, April 20, Lester Holt, anchor of "NBC Nightly News," and data journalist Ben Welsh of the Los Angeles Times shared advice with students as the recipients of the inaugural journalism awards from DePaul's Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence.

Both journalists have roots in Chicago. Holt worked for 14 years at WBBM-TV in Chicago as a reporter and anchor before moving to NBC in New York. Holt became anchor of "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" in June 2015, after eight years as anchor of "NBC Nightly News" weekend editions and 12 years as co-anchor of "Weekend TODAY." In addition, Holt has served as principal anchor of "Dateline NBC" since September 2011.

Holt is known for his work in the field, reporting and anchoring from breaking news events across the world. He goes wherever the story takes him and focuses on people directly affected by the biggest stories of the day.

Welsh earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from DePaul in 2004, where he studied with investigative journalists Carol Marin and Don Moseley, who now lead the journalism center in DePaul's College of Communication. 


Over 30 students in the college of communication attended the question and answer session with Holt and Welsh. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

As an editor of the Data Desk, Welsh leads a team of reporters and programmers in the Los Angeles Times newsroom to collect, analyze and present large amounts of information. He worked on the team that earned the Times staff a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news and reporting in 2016 for coverage of the shooting in San Bernardino and the terror investigation that followed. 

At the awards luncheon, DePaul honored Holt and Welsh for work that embodies the highest principles of journalism, including truth, accuracy, fairness and context. Holt received the Journalist of the Year award, while Welsh earned recognition as Alumnus of the Year.

Peabody Prize-winning journalists, Carol Marin and Don Moseley launched DePaul's Center Journalism Integrity and Excellence in May 2016.

The Center focuses on promoting the highest ideals of journalism through theory and practice. To prepare students for the professional world, the Center offers training, teaching, expertise and professional outreach. 

Prior to the awards presentation, Holt and Welsh spoke with a group of 30 journalism students about their experiences in Chicago.

"It was in Chicago where my eyes were opened," Holt said. "Reporting isn't a stepping stone, reporting is what we do."

Welsh added it was in Chicago where he first became passionate about chasing down and revealing corruption, or "clout" as he called it.

Moderated by Marin, the session concluded with questions from journalism students seeking career advice. Holt reminded students that news is supposed to be uncomfortable to both the reporter and the consumer.

"News isn't supposed to make you feel good," Holt said. "Sometimes we are going to tell you a story that makes you rethink everything you thought you knew."

Welsh emphasized the one and only job as a journalist: honesty.

"One of the great things about being a journalist is that if you just tell the truth, you'll be alright," Welsh said.

View the photo gallery from the awards ceremony and student session

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