Lester Holt, Joe Birch discuss MLK special 'Hope and Fury' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lester Holt, Joe Birch discuss MLK special 'Hope and Fury'

Joe Birch (left) Lester Holt (right) (Source: WMC Action News 5) Joe Birch (left) Lester Holt (right) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

NBC will air a special report honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on March 24 at 7 p.m.

The special report is called "Hope and Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media." It is narrated by Lester Holt.

Holt spoke with WMC Action News 5's Joe Birch about the special and why Dr. King's legacy has stood the test of time.

JOE: It's an absolute delight to have this opportunity to visit with the anchor of NBC Nightly News, Lester Holt, who is the narrator and one of the people who tells the story of a brand new documentary featuring the civil rights movement. Tell us about it, Lester.

LESTER: Well it's called Hope and Fury, Joe. I'm quite proud of it. It's a two-hour documentary that's built around the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. But it tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement--a story we think we know well--in a different way: through the eye of the television camera, and how the camera captured it at the time, how the Civil Rights Movement, how Dr. King embraced television, and how he understood if this non-violent protest was to succeed, the rest of the country had to see what was happening.

The Civil Rights Movement was well known in black communities in the South, but it was largely not well known outside the South. So television really put it on the map and Dr. King understood that.

JOE: And he was such a smart strategist and tactician that he realized as television news--which was still in its pioneering days--in its infancy, as it gained the ability to cross the country and have television news cameras cover the events from Birmingham, to Montgomery, to Selma, to Memphis, he realized this story needed to be told through that lens, right?

LESTER: It was important. He understood that the rest of the world had to see it. For a while, he was preaching to the choir. He knew he had to get outside the church, and how do you do that, you get it on television.

In those days the idea of a network special report was largely unheard of, but the events in Selma became the object of that kind of special report. This is also the story of how television news was propelled forward by covering this movement, there was such high interest. The Evening News on NBC was a 15 minute broadcast until shortly after the march on Washington, is when it expanded to a half hour. That was largely thanks to this incredible story that the country was awakening to. They knew about some of the clashes in the South, but to see some of the hatred, to see some of the violence, really pricked the national conscience.

JOE: Well we look forward to welcoming you to Memphis on the 50th commemoration of Dr. King's assassination on April 4th, and we know now that this story is just as cogent and important as ever given what's played out on August 12th last year in Charlottesville and many other places across the country and new media that young people are using to tell this story live, right?

LESTER: That's part of our story, that this isn't just looking in the past. Imagery is still an important tool as we've seen on a number of occasions that you mentioned. Here in modern times the power of the picture the power of video changes minds and changes perceptions; it prompts activism, which we've certainly seen in the Black Lives Matter movement. So you'll see in this two hours that we take you to the heart of the movement, but we also show some parallels with things that are taking place right now.

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