So many people use the smooth and polished misconception when they’re defining their television goals to me! As soon as I share that these are 2 descriptions to run from- I get the sense that they’re thinking of running away.
It was the same thing when I used to tell folks I loved Peter Lorre's voice. For those of you who may not be familiar with him- he was a terrific actor in the Humphrey Bogart era- and had a voice a bit like a cat on helium.
My point here is that we want to be natural speaking ‘oral’ journalists.. and the natural voice is far from smooth and polished. Sure- women applying for phone sex jobs may attempt to fake something within this realm.. but our conversational, information-sharing voices are much more like unsyncopated jazz. If you eavesdrop on a random conversation you’ll hear unexpected and ‘jerky’ highs/lows.. upward and downward inflections.. louder and softer volume.. sudden pauses and at other times strings of run-on comments.
The voice becomes the semantic vehicle for the messages we share. As journalists reporting information, we can’t shut out thoughts that- based on what we know- fall into categories like things that are expected.. a bit surprising.. sad.. seemingly confounding or foolish.. auspicious.. etc. If we’re on-camera we do our best to keep a neutral expression.. and we never intend to editorialize.. but our voice will have a certain ‘ebb and flow’ carrying the information- based on our natural, personal style of self-expression. And- our eyes are never dead.
By taking an extra moment to internalize information enough to think about who or what this is.. and what’s going on.. we automatically jumpstart a thoughtful, natural style. We are SHARING the news with one person at a time.
We are not performing.. we are not attempting to be smooth-speaking like silk or fabulous-sounding like an opera star.
At least once every week or so someone will ask me “how would you say that?”. Well- it depends on how I (as a journalist) see the nuances and implications of the story.. and your take on it may or may not be the same as mine.
I recently had to replay information 'performed' by a local anchor because his slick style and injections of inhalations overrode my ability to follow what he said: "A boiled water advisory is in effect until further notice for parts of [ ] county it affects the communities of [6 towns]". Sure, he may be more handsome than my boyfriend.. and boy can he sit up straight.. but if I want to be charmed by some sultry guy's voice- I'll play my Barry White cd.
My warmest to you all,
Previously featured on the Radio Television Digital News Association as the News Coach blog series.