Lester Holt on Replacing Brian Williams, Making History and Telling the Truth

The newly-minted NBC Nightly News anchor talks to PEOPLE about the gig of a lifetime

Photo: Heidi Gutman/NBC)

Despite the pressure that comes with replacing former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Lester Holt tells PEOPLE he’s laser-focused on the task at hand.

“I’ve been doing Nightly News on the weekend since 2007 and in this capacity for five months now,” says Holt during an interview for this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “People may see me differently now, but it’s the same guy. I’m still reporting the news every night, but I’m mindful.”

It’s a mindfulness that undoubtedly stems from his colleague’s scandal that rocked the network. In February, Williams admitted to embellishing some of his stories – and left the anchor chair open for Holt. But the journalist says honest reporting is something his audience can rely on.

“I’ve always thought my work speaks for itself,” says Holt, “I’ve been with this organization for 15 years. I don’t feel like I have to do anything special, or that I especially have something to prove to the audience. I’m just kind of a guy who likes to do news and I’m having fun.”

He’s also making history. Holt’s appointment makes him the first solo black anchor of a weekday nightly network newscast. “Like a lot of African-Americans in this business or any other, we don’t all want to necessarily be defined by our race,” the journalist says. “But of course our race is a part of who we are.”

Still, Holt, who says as a child he once asked his mother, “Why aren’t there any negro people on TV?”, is happy to be doing his part for diversity.

“I have always believed that especially young people should be able to turn on the TV and see people who kind of look like them,” he says. “I’m honored.”

For more on Holt, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

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