Saturday, January 22, 2005

What Makes A Good Anchor?

In looking back at Jeff's archives, he poses the question "What Does it Take to Find a Good Anchor?" Good question. I thought I'd share my two cents. The following is based in part on personal philosophy and the thoughts of an anchor I consider to be a mentor and a friend. In previous posts I have described "it" and "the look" as intangibles in television, but to be an effective main anchor means doing so much more than being on television and it also means doing much more than reporting the news.

The role of the main anchor needs to be divided equally between the community and the newsroom. Main anchors should be mentors and they should have done just about every job in the newsroom, but more than that, they should be willing to share their experience with anyone willing to learn.

A main anchor should be a repository of historical perspective. He/she should know the problems each town in the market faces, the history and prognosis of those towns and be able to put things into context. This assumes that the path to main anchor in a newsroom begins somewhere other than the top. When the goal of management is to attract viewers with a pretty or flamboyant anchor... one that lacks a solid foundation, you're setting up for a disconnect within the newsroom and with the audience. The reality is many stations don't care.

The main anchor needs to be the most respected, most widely read, most knowledgeable and most experienced person in the newsroom. Still, building and maintaining relationships with the community will at times need to be as much of or more of a priority than reporting. It means becoming a part time journalist and part time Rotarian.

The main anchor should be on a first name basis with every mayor, every police chief, every business leader, every top level educator, every legislator and other significant “official” in the market. They should ride in every parade, kiss every baby, shake every hand, much like a successful politician. My father-in-law used to be mayor of our town and could be reached by journalists any time, day or night, even going so far as to give local reporters his cell number. The main anchor should be that accessible to people. For those "big J" people reading, this is far from journalism in it's truest sense, but I don't think TV news is that anyway (this is another debate for a future post).

In the end what you have is someone who is an important part of the community... someone who truly has the public's trust and whose work connects all kinds of people.

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