Broadcasting Pioneers: Recognizing Influential Black Male News Anchors

Black Male News Anchors

Broadcast journalism is not a field that has always been welcoming to Black male news anchors, as this country has always struggled with its relationship with Black people. That complicated and tarnished relationship didn’t leave room for the country as a whole to trust a black person to bring them their news on a regular basis. America’s most revered anchor of all-time, Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted person in journalism during his reign on CBS Evening News. That’s not a label that could’ve been bestowed upon a Black a man during that time.

Of course, if black people weren’t trusted enough to be news anchors back then, the fact that we have more than a few news anchors on television today ought to speak to improving interracial relationships in America, no?

We won’t answer that question today, but we will explore it’s premise—black male news anchors are delivering the news. And with a news industry in which more and more people are beginning to distrust the news, it’s important that Black Americans, and all Americans alike, are able to see faces on the screen that look like them, talk like them, and remind them of someone in their lives they too can trust. So in this article, we recognize just some of the Black male news anchors of the past, present and soon-to-come future, who have or will be an important part of how we got a more vibrant and multifaceted news ecosystem.

Pioneers: The Early Black Male News Anchors

  • Max Robinson: Long before Lester Holt became the anchor of “NBC Nightly News”, it was Max Robinson who became the first Black news anchor on a national network. Going directly from local news to co-anhoring “ABC World News Tonight” in 1978 was a huge step for him, and for the race. Robinson was noted for bringing a fashionable, cool, baritone style to the news, all made picture perfect with his closely manicured Afro. And he used his status for good, fighting for more balanced coverage of African-Americans, co-founding the National Association of Black Journalists, and mentoring new Black journalists.
  • Bernard Shaw: Bernard Shaw, renowned for being one of the most enduring anchors in broadcast history, served as the chief anchor at CNN. His commanding presence and insightful reporting were pivotal as CNN significantly elevated its profile during the Gulf War. Shaw not only led the charge from behind the news desk but also made history with his on-the-ground reporting from Baghdad, bringing the realities of war directly into America’s cable household living rooms. His contributions to journalism extended beyond the studio, setting a high standard for war correspondence and live reporting.
  • Bruce Johnson: Bruce Johnson is one of the most revered Black journalist in the history of Washington D.C. and its local affiliate WUSA—and much of it had very little to do with coverage of the White House or Capitol Hill. Instead, Johnson was reporting on behalf of the people of D.C., covering majors stories like the 1982 Washington Metro train derailment, the 1977 Hanafi Siege, and perhaps his most recognized story, the coverage of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, of which Johnson’s coverage was unparalleled.
  • Bryant Gumbel: Bryant Gumbel gets a lot of flack, but he truly is a pioneer in journalism, and especially for Blacks in journalism. He started off his career as the editor “Black Sports” in 1971, but he quickly transition to TV, becoming a local sportscaster for KNBC in Los Angeles. His talent was so glaring that at the age of just 27, with just 3 years in the business, and not having gone to some fancy Ivy League school, Gumbel was hired to become a part of the NBC pre-game show for the National Football league. From there, it was nothing but up, becoming the chief sports correspondent for the “Today Show” before he eventually took over as one of its lead co-anchors for over 15 years. He eventually got back to sports, leading the highly acclaimed “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” investigative series, which in its 29-season run won over 30 Sports Emmy Awards and won two Peabody Awards.

The Black Male News Anchors of Today

Craig Melvin

Craig Melvin (NBC Today)

Oftentimes, being a morning TV show anchor does get the credit it deserves. Most people think folks with pretty faces and charming personalities just walk onto the set and are ordained to proffer up their gift of gab for the detache pseudo-listening audiences at home. But that mischaracterization misses on the incredible work it takes to sit-in one of the Big 4 networks morning programs, and Craig Melvin certainly has some incredible work in his past.

Craigh Melvin started off as a news photographer and producer for an NBC affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina, his home state, eventually working his way up to anchoring the weekday newscast for teh station and hosting his own series—usually focused on themes like homelessness and education. From there, Melvin would make his way to an NBC-owned station in Washington D.C., a chance to bring his news talents to the political capital of the country and ultimately report into NBC Universal, where he could be seen by companies executives.

There, he became the weekend evening newscast anchor, and he did such a fine job that it led to a spot at MSNBC, where he joined as an anchor and news reporter for NBC News, as well. Now with a national audience, Melvin was telling national stories. During his time MSNBC and NBC News, Melvin covered Presidential national conventions, election nights, mass shootings, tornados, the Winter and Summer Olympics, and Black Lives Matter protests.

Garnering that experience and resume, it’s no surprise that the bosses at NBC eventually called Melvin up to the Broadcast stage, earning himself a spot as a co-anchor on the Today during its third hour. He still continued his MSNBC duties for some years after that, but now Melvin is solely focused on this Today gig.

Lester Holt (NBC News)

Lester Holt, the emblematic face of integrity in journalism, stands tall behind the NBC News desk, a familiar and trusted figure to news enthusiasts everywhere. A proud graduate of California State University, Holt has been the unflinching anchor of “NBC Nightly News” since 2015, a role he took over after a distinguished tenure anchoring the show’s weekend edition. His journalistic versatility shines as he also helms “Dateline,” delving into intriguing stories that capture the nation’s attention.

As NBC’s go-to anchor for high-stakes events, Holt’s expertise was on full display when he adeptly co-anchored the most recent Republican Presidential Nominee Debate in Miami on November 8th, 2023. His role in these debates is more than just a job; it’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex political discourse with ease and fairness.

Holt’s tenure at NBC has been nothing short of illustrious. He has not only moderated multiple presidential debates but also conducted pivotal interviews with several U.S. Presidents, offering viewers insightful and hard-hitting journalism. His commitment to being at the forefront of major events is evident in his reporting from the Summer Olympics and being the first to report from the scene of countless breaking news events, natural disasters, and significant historical moments.

Before his time at NBC, Holt honed his skills at CBS News for 19 years, where he left an indelible mark with his insightful reporting. His journey also includes stints at local stations in media hubs like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. His career trajectory is a rich tapestry of experiences, from covering critical national issues to connecting with communities on local stories.

What sets Holt apart is not just his longevity in the industry but his unwavering commitment to journalistic integrity and his ability to connect with viewers on a human level. He’s earned numerous accolades, including multiple Emmy Awards, testament to his profound impact on broadcast journalism. Lester Holt isn’t just a news anchor; he’s an enduring symbol of trust and excellence in a field that demands nothing less.

Lawrence B. Jones (Fox News)

Lawrence B. Jones is swiftly emerging as one of Fox News’ most rapidly ascending stars. At just 30 years old, he has already secured a co-anchor role on ‘Fox & Friends’, a show on the cable news network, distinguishing himself as one of the youngest, if not the youngest, Black male news anchors on cable television. His conservative viewpoints often contrast with the beliefs of many left-leaning Black Americans, a demographic that typically does not form a large part of Fox News’ audience.

Regardless of whether one agrees with him, it’s undeniable that his ability to engage with viewers has fueled his meteoric rise. His influence extends to millions, transcending race, with his insights as a Black man resonating with those seeking understanding (or justification) of the Black experience. His connection with the Fox News viewership isn’t surprising, given his background rich in conservative activist journalism. He has undertaken undercover operations to reveal alleged fraud in Obamacare, supported vendors facing backlash for refusing to serve gay customers, and criticized the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) for awarding Jemele Hill, whom he argued was unemployed and undeserving.

In spirt of personal viewpoints – and I have my own – one must recognize his eloquence and persuasive power from the anchor desk. As Lawrence Jones’ prominence grows, whether that will be positive or negative remains to be seen. Either way, he is certainly a figure to observe—and possibly to be cautious of.

Errol Barnett (CBS News)

Errol Barnett, a standout among young Black male news anchors in the U.S., brings a unique perspective from his British roots. His journalistic journey began in American high schools and led him to UCLA. Early in his career, Barnett covered significant events, including the 9/11 attacks, while working for Channel One News.

At CNN, Barnett’s focus on the rise of social media culminated in his coverage of President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. He also served as an anchor on CNN Newsroom, honing his journalistic skills.

Now at CBS News Streaming Network, Barnett, based in New York City, covers major stories, including Queen Elizabeth’s death and Hurricane Dorian. His reporting resonates with American millennials, making him a key voice for his generation’s defining stories. Barnett’s dynamic approach at CBS positions him as a significant figure in contemporary journalism.

Trevor Noah (Formerly of The Daily Show)

Most people don’t think of Trevor Noah as a formal news anchor, broadcaster, reporter, or any other label journalists are typically bestowed. But Noah isn’t your typical person, and that’s why even as a comedian, he was, for a time, one of the most trusted people in the news media. For avid followers of the The Daily Show, this should come as no surprise. Throughout the pandemic, Trevor Noah, largely from his home in the eye of the Covid-19 storm in New York City, delivered the news of the days, weeks and months to us when we didn’t just need more news, but we needed to discuss it. Of course, even before Trevor, it was John Stewart, who was indeed labeled the most trusted person in news, so whether its perception or reality, The Daily Show and its hosts are informing the news-consuming public with the knowledge they need to know.

Whether it was during the pandemic, or after it, Trevor’s spirits were always high. For a mix-raced Black man, with a white mother, from another country, and a job as a comedian—perhaps the most mentally fatiguing label of them all—it was amazing to see someone who could’ve easily ascribed to the “country is falling apart” narrative during the Trump or Pandemic seasons not do it. Instead, Trevor was a bastion of light. He unapologetically called out what things were, but he also took note of all the great things we had going on, while taking a moment to make us laugh—to keep from crying—about the things that weren’t’. So no, Trevor Noah certainly isn’t your traditional Black male news anchor, and obviously, he’s not doing much in the way of news now. But for a time, he was maybe one of the people that the country trusted the most for their news, and who knows, he may return to the scene if he ever gets bored of interviewing The Rock.

Black Male News Anchors of Tomorrow

Eugene Daniels

Eugene Daniels (Politico)

Eugene Daniels, a key Politico White House correspondent and Playbook author, brings a unique blend of style and depth to political journalism. Joining Politico in 2018, he has covered major political events and focuses on figures like Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. An openly gay African American, Daniels adds a critical perspective to political discourse, infusing his work with his personal journey and advocacy for inclusivity. His contributions extend to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and PBS’ “Washington Week,” where his nuanced commentary and distinct identity enrich the dialogue on national issues. And while he is not yet someone anchoring the news from behind the vaunted news desk of yore, we think he will be, as broadcast news could certainly use an update in this day and age, and we think he’s the one to do it while bringing the credibility and trust we need in the anchor’s seat.

Chauncy Glover (CBS Los Angeles)

Chauncy Glover, the Emmy-winning journalist and newest co-anchor of the KCBS and KCAL evening newscasts in Los Angeles, is much more than a news personality. Born and raised in Athens, Alabama, Glover’s passion for journalism began at a young age, and he pursued a career in broadcast journalism, music, and theatre at Troy University. His career, beginning two days after college at WTVM News Leader 9 in Columbus, Georgia, led him to various positions across the U.S., including notable tenures in Jacksonville, Detroit, and Houston at KTRK, where he became the station’s first black male news anchor to helm of the evening time slot.

Beyond his on-screen accomplishments, Glover is deeply committed to community service. He founded “The Chauncy Glover Project” in Detroit, a mentoring program aimed at grooming young Black and Latino men into successful, well-rounded individuals. This initiative, which he later relocated to Houston and now continues despite his move to Los Angeles, has positively impacted the lives of over 1,000 young men, sending more than 350 to college. Glover’s dedication to mentorship and community empowerment has earned him widespread recognition, including three Emmy Awards and accolades from President Barack Obama. His life motto, “Fear stops where faith begins,” encapsulates his approach to both his professional and philanthropic endeavors, and it’s why we believe he’s destined to have an even greater impact on the news industry—both in and outside of that anchor’s chair.

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