A recent visit with journalism students at Peters Township High School included a question from one you woman that got me thinking. She asked me a relatively simple question – what makes a good TV news anchor? The smart-aleck in me wanted to respond “please ask someone who is actually good at anchoring”.
While it appears simple, but our job is a little tough to explain — especially for me having been on the job less than nine months. Even the name of our job is difficult to decide upon. In England, we are called newsreaders or TV presenters and here in the states, some just call us “TV guys”. The job looks simple if you are sitting at home – just sitting at a table and literally reading copy – but the duties go well beyond the relatively brief segments you see on the air.
So far that aspiring young woman with the red hair in the second round who asked, I have some thoughts that might help in deciding if you have “the right stuff” to be anchor:
1. Personable and approachable
Let’s face it. Those of us who wind up being anchors may not always be the best at what we do – but we are people who tend to be personable and approachable. If you don’t like the person bringing you the news, your not likely to watch.
2. Believable and trustworthy
I can be as happy and outgoing as anyone, but does that mean when something terrible happens in our town, you are going to watch me? That’s where believability and trustworthiness comes into the picture.
3. Thinking on your feet
While there is a script for the news, there is no script for “breaking news”. When things happen, we are expected to speak off-the-cuff. In many ways, it’s like doing play-by-play in sports, only the subjects you often ad-lib about are much more serious.
4. Caring about your community
Anchors are not only the face of the TV station, but also the face of their community. I truly believe you need to care about the town you live in – and do as much as possible to make that location a better place. Whether it’s charitable causes, inspiring children or making a donation, I think whenever you can you must be an active part of the community in which you work
5. Being a team player
From working well with your co-anchor to listening and trusting the producers and reporters that work along side, you have to be able to be a tam player – giving up individual glory for the greater good. No matter how good you are or how famous you may become, no anchor can do their job without dozens of people working behind the scenes. It also helps to have a co-anchor who allows you to be an equal partner ( i.e. Kelly Frey ).
I hope that answers that rather simple question for that young woman in the audience at Peters. While it may seem easy, it’s anything but and while it can be demanding, there is nothing else I would rather be doing right now.
PS: Thanks to the students and staff at Peters Township for allowing me to come to campus Thursday. It was fun.