Television news brought sitting people.. standing people (ie. anchors and reporters) .. nat sound.. sound bites.. and (hopefully) significant video into our lives. The intention, in part , was to be more agile and multi-media than newspapers.. and for some- to provide news from a warm-blooded, talking human so that some of us would feel a bit less lonely.. and perhaps less spooked by the information we’re petitioning.
As for me: sometimes I’ll put on my local news while I’m working on something else in the same room. If I hear something that compels me to watch some video: I’ll look up or make a mental note to scroll backwards when I can find my remote.
The other day I was paying bills.. and a local news station had reached the C Block: Around the World. I found myself thinking ‘hmmm- they must be really behind- the anchor is really speeding along! My brain was in jog mode trying to keep up.
Then I heard: “Due to increased violence Dutch law enforcement plans to implement serious restrictions on popular marijuana cases”. I’m not well-versed on the Dutch legal system- but I had a ‘huh’? moment and looked up- hoping to see video that would help me understand this one-liner news item.
The anchor had a ‘poker look’ on his face.. there was no video.. and he was into the next Around the World story. But it did strike me that either he misread ‘cafes’ for ‘cases’.. or perhaps there was a typo in the prompter. Either way- I was sad.. for us- and not for the café frequenters.
Either Chris- an anchor I do like- was tearing along and was totally disconnected to what he said.. and/or someone was asleep at the switch and didn’t click on the IFB to advise him of his mistake. Or even worse- and this is my fear: someone in the newsroom caught it- and a decision was made not to clarify this information for the viewers.
How we speak- so does the anchor
If you listen to a random conversation- we stutter.. we stumble.. we correct inadvertently mispronounced sounds. Sometimes we stop- and clarify or repeat a word.. a name.. a phrase.. to assure that our listener easily ‘got’ what we said.
As long as an anchor isn’t gripped by a tendency to misspeak (and this can come from a multitude of reasons)- an occasional ‘flub’ is completely fine.. if not normal. An anchor needs to do just what lay folks do: correct it in whatever manner suits his/her personality and personal preference.. and move on.
You may just ‘comfortably’ correct yourself.. you may couch it as “that’s ___”. Depending on the mistake and the nature of the story- you may choose to correct it more carefully “Let me make sure you’ve gotten this correctly- its’ ___”.
If the story is light- sometimes a little ‘look’ may replace words.. as you correct what was ‘screwed up’.
One of my personal frustrations is seeing terrific, professional, comfortably executed catches or corrections – and having to tell a client ‘geez, that was great- you did that so well. I’d love to put that on your demo reel to show management how comfortably you handle your job.. but if it’s on your reel.. they may think you had nothing to show them that doesn’t have you misspeaking.
Previously featured on the Radio Television Digital News Association as the News Coach blog series.