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News Coach: More Surprises About Anchoring

So You Want to Be a News Anchor?

When last we met, we discussed the most common roads leading to an anchor opportunity, and dispelled some misconceptions. We will now tackle some of the most frequently posed topics and questions I get.

“Do you watch [anchor’s name]? That’s the style I’d like to learn.  I like his tone.”

This brings me back to my speech/language pathology days. I sometimes worked with ‘on the spectrum’ young adults who wanted to sound more like their non-spectrum peers. In this case we worked from overlays of ‘how spoken language sounds.’ With regard to you and your anchoring: You will each sound unique! Your natural speaking voice, and how you normally interpret nuance and innuendo when you speak, will serve as your best foundation. If some proclivities within your everyday speaking voice prove to be distracting and in need tweaking, or if you may need to add a few new tools to your kit (e.g. methods of emphasis), this will be apparent. Otherwise, trust that you’ve come this far with the speaking voice you use in your reporting.

The takeaway: There is no ‘one magical technique’ to aim for.

“What do I do with my hands?”.  
Um, what do you normally do with your arms and hands as you speak? That’s most likely your answer. It’s easier to tell you what not to do:

  • Do not sit still like a sphinx with your hands posed very near each other or gently pancaked or intertwined. This causes your arms to squish too tightly by your torso, and it also becomes a crutch.
  • Your spine should feel straight but not stiff or pulled up and your shoulders and elbows should be relaxed, more parallel to your torso. Then your hands will fall at repose upon the set top, moving at will and taking your arms along for the ride.
  • Bear in mind that we think you are living in a smaller universe, that is, the frame of the camera or of our video device. So any natural movement needs to be exponentially shrunk. Picture being in a happy, comfortable invisible box whose walls are about 11-12 inches from your torso, and keep your natural movements smaller and within it. You can’t do far-reaching flailing (as many of us do when we dance!), but you can move naturally.Any proclivity to natural movements from your arms and hands should not be squelched! What?! What about the ‘anchor pose’?!

The takeaway: There is no patented pose.

Warning: Trick question ahead!  Did you mark your scripts?

Ahh, you do! You mark them ahead of time, planning on what you will emphasize? Wrong!

You just need to quickly read through your script once, internalizing the information. This includes your intellectual, journalistic reaction to it. There is no anticipation about what your voice or body language will do. Some of my clients will whiz through a script muttering fast in sotto voice, but they are not ‘planning’ how to speak.

Then, wow! There it is in the prompter! This is what is in your head: “Oh yeah, I wanted to share this, and want to share this too”. If you underline individual words or put stars around them in the prompter, you’ll ‘oomph’ [patented term] individual words. This makes you sound like an enthusiastic speaker of a litany of isolated words (I wonder if this is how cavemen sounded) and we’ll be annoyed or lost. We talk in cognitive chunks. Go for the whole message. It’s most often the entire sentence, or two chunks per sentence.

Okay, you can mark your paper scripts, but here’s where: Horizontal lines above and below your ‘reads’. And if you’re a team player, you can do it with your partner’s part as well. There’s nothing better in this world than a team player (you’ve hopefully already learned this in the field). This way, when the prompter goes down – and it will – it’s just a matter of time – you’ll have an easier time picking up from the point where your easy world went dark. I’d use a thick nubbed pen or marker, and as you anchor remember to move your pages along so that your top page or page in front of you keeps current with the information on the prompter.

The takeaway: You want to convey thoughts, not words.

At this rate I’ll have my next book. But I am electing to stop here for now so that you can please allow the above to gently seep into your communication-driven minds and souls.

To be continued, I promise!

News consultant Joanne Stevens has written extensively about broadcast writing, reporting and anchoring, including columns in the former print version of RTDNA's Communicator Magazine, and earlier versions of the RTDNA website. She has taught at Columbia and New York University and serves as a news award judge for the New York Press Club. She has returned to to offer a new series of News Coach columns with tips, best practices and more. - Click on the RTDNA logo below to learn more. This blog was originally published here:


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