Lester Holt joins Wilson for assembly on fake news

Hannah Masling and Anna Parra-Jordan

The auditorium buzzed with the typical energy of an assembly; some students sat back in their seats on their phones, and others hollered to their friends across aisles. The unreserved boredom didn’t change until Lester Holt entered through the auditorium’s side doors, baring a white smile that entertains millions of Americans every night on NBC Nightly News.

Holt was at Wilson to join a presentation given by MediaWise, a project which aims to help youth navigate fact from fiction in news and on the internet. The assembly acted as Holt’s official joining of the MediaWise as an ambassador.

To start the assembly, Katy Byron introduced herself as the editor and manager of MediaWise and explained the goal of the project: to teach 1 million teenagers nationwide how to be skilled evaluators of information by fact-checking in order to combat the spread of misinformation online. Byron then eagerly handed Holt the microphone.

Holt’s brief speech emphasized the importance of factual journalism, as well as journalism itself. “We want a healthier relationship between journalism and those who consume journalism every day,” he started. “Journalism is an important pillar that lifts our democracy.”

The audience was then presented with tips and tools for fact-checking, from reverse Google image searching to lateral reading. Stories such as Drake’s $10,000 McDonald’s tip and Chicago’s use of fire on railroads to keep trains running were then displayed on the projector, and students’ job was to determine if the stories were real or not.

To wrap up the presentation, Byron opened the floor to questions. Junior Sofia Suardi asked about the future of journalism, and how its growing online focus might affect it, to which Hester replied jokingly. “I hope it continues, I need the money,” he said. But he ended on a more serious note, commenting on the value of accurate news reporting. “It’s better to be last and get it right than to be first and wrong,” he said.