Never one to bury the lead, Stefan Holt begins his interview with Westchester Magazine by declaring: “I will apologize now; I’m on daddy duties… you might hear screaming in the background.” A New Rochelle-based journalist who anchors the 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts for the flagship station of NBC television network, WNBC-TV, Holt has, in a way, inherited the family business: His father is venerated NBC Nightly News and Dateline anchor Lester Holt.
And like a chip off the old A-block, the 32-year-old Holt, like his onetime war-correspondent father, doesn’t shy away from drama, having covered stories ranging from bank robberies to mass-transit stoppages. He’s a regular at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting and most recently he interviewed a 96-year-old pilot who dropped paratroopers over occupied France during D-Day. “He did it while getting shot at by German soldiers,” notes Holt. “It’s moving to realize this generation is fading away and that we won’t have the opportunity to talk to them.”
Now, however, Holt’s focus is squarely on his family.
On June 5, he and his wife, Morgan Holt, welcomed their second son, Samuel Richard Holt, into the world. And while there was certainly some de rigueur crying from the baby, daddy duty was anything but stressful. At the time, he said he was “in that paternity-leave mode.” He said it was “a great chance to spend time home as a family.”
When not working, in the mornings, Morgan and Stefan put Sam and their two-year-old son, Henry, in strollers and head to breakfast at the Harbor House Coffee Shop or the New Rochelle Diner. “Henry loves waffles,” says Stefan. “He calls them ‘faffles.’”
Come the afternoon, father and toddler son practice driving. “I see him getting into the driver’s seat right now to honk the horn,” says Holt of Henry. Or, they sit in the front yard and watch planes fly above them. Their house, located at the north end of New Rochelle, isn’t too far from the approach path to LaGuardia Airport, and their favorite game is to “guess the airline model.”
Sometimes Holt and his wife sneak away for a quick dinner date, recently paying visits to Capers in Port Chester and Divino Cucina Italiano in Hastings-on-Hudson (the latter of which he visited after reading in WM).The couple also love socializing with their neighbors, making steak fajitas on the grill, or watching the kids play on the lawn. Holt reports that the neighbors on their street get along so well, they stage progressive dinners every quarter, where they go to a different house for appetizers, entrées, and desserts. “Whoever has dessert duty has to be ready for a late night,” laughs Holt.
Co-anchors Natalie Pasquarella and Stefan Holt in the WNBC control room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Photo courtesy of NBC 4 New York/WNBC
For Holt and his family, Westchester living suits them perfectly. “My wife is from the wide-open spaces of Central Texas, so living in New York City was a hard ask,” he explains. “We wanted a backyard, some more space.” But it took some time to get there.
Holt grew up in Chicago until the age of 13, when his family moved to New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. He remembers going into his dad’s office at NBC and talking about aviation, their shared passion. Right after 9/11, when he was in high school, Holt accompanied his father to a police news conference. “I think that is when I got the bug,” he said. “At that time, there was so much news going on: 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The news was important.”
While his fellow high school students were exploring nightclubs, Holt became so obsessed with New York City transportation that he even read books on the topic. He toured subway stations and airports. He frequented the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. He’ll never forget the day he and a friend rode the 6 train to the abandoned City Hall Subway Station. “We were nerds,” he says. “We asked the conductor for permission.”
He headed off to Pepperdine University, where he met Morgan his sophomore year. Her roommate was his co-anchor on the college’s TV newscast, and she encouraged him to arrange a date. He and Morgan attended a spring formal at Holt’s fraternity; in 2012, they said their vows on the college campus.
It was during his college years that Holt attained his pilot’s license, at Westchester County Airport. He spent a summer working at an Italian restaurant in the West Village and then driving to the airport during off-hours to take courses and log his flights. Holt’s favorite places to fly to are the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard. He says being a pilot still informs his reporting. “Aviation is my beat,” he volunteers. “When the helicopter crash happened in Midtown, I was on paternity leave, but I called my colleagues and provided them with background information and shared first-hand knowledge of flying.”
Holt started his career at the ABC station in West Palm Beach before moving to Chicago in 2012 to work with the NBC-owned television station there. In 2016, it was announced he would take over the 4 p.m. slot on WNBC in New York City and cover local stories, from weather to crime. For Holt, working in his dad’s industry is tricky. “I was super-nervous about following in his footsteps,” he shares, “but he has always been my biggest — I don’t know if ‘critic’ is the right word — but mentor. In college, when I was trying to get my first job, I sent him clips and tapes. He said, ‘Your delivery needs work; move your hands less and ask these questions.’”
When Holt arrived in New York City, he moved into an apartment on 94th and Third Avenue, an easy commute to 30 Rock (Morgan was working at the Hospital for Special Surgery, so the location made sense for her, as well). But they craved something they couldn’t get in the city: space.
They became interested in Westchester when Morgan’s boss invited them to his house in Pelham. They wanted to start a family and had been going to open houses in the city. At the dinner, they were astonished by how much green space there was in the county. “We both agreed it would be would work for us,” he said. “We thought we could do this.”
Alyson Krueger is a freelance journalist in New York City and a regular contributor to Westchester Magazine.