Art of Anchoring
Nature of the Work
Radio and television announcers perform a variety of tasks on and off the air. They announce station program information, such as program schedules and station breaks for commercials, or public service information, and they introduce and close programs. Announcers read prepared scripts or make ad-lib commentary on the air, as they present news, sports, the weather, time, and commercials. If a written script is required, they may do the research and writing. Announcers also interview guests and moderate panels or discussions.
Some provide commentary for the audience during sporting events, at parades, and on other occasions. Announcers often are well known to radio and television audiences and may make promotional appearances and do remote broadcasts for their stations. Announcers at smaller stations may cover all of these areas and tend to have more off-air duties as well. They may operate the control board, monitor the transmitter, sell commercial time to advertisers, keep a log of the station’s daily programming, and produce advertisements and other recorded material.
Advances in technology make it possible for announcers to do some work previously performed by editors and broadcast technicians. At many music stations, the announcer is simultaneously responsible both for announcing and for operating the control board, which is used to broadcast programming, commercials, and public-service announcements according to the station’s schedule. Much of the recorded material that used to be on records or tape is now in the form of digital files on computers. Public radio and television announcers are involved in station fundraising efforts.
Changes in technology have led to more remote operations of stations. Several stations in different locations of the same region may be operated from one office. Some stations operate overnight without any staff, playing programming from a satellite feed or using programming that was recorded earlier, including segments from announcers. Announcers frequently participate in community activities. Sports announcers, for example, may serve as masters of ceremonies at sports club banquets or may greet customers at openings of sporting goods stores.
Radio announcers who broadcast music often are called disc jockeys (DJs). Some DJs specialize in one kind of music, announcing selections as they air them. Most DJs do not select much of the music they play (although they often did so in the past); instead, they follow schedules of commercials, talk, and music provided to them by management. While on the air, DJs comment on the music, weather, and traffic. They may take requests from listeners, interview guests, and manage listener contests. Some DJs announce and play music at clubs, dances, restaurants, and weddings.
They often have their own equipment with which to play the music. Many are self-employed and rent their services out on a job-by-job basis. Show hosts may specialize in a certain area of interest, such as politics, personal finance, sports, or health. They contribute to the preparation of the program’s content, interview guests, and discuss issues with viewers, listeners, or the studio audience. Public address system announcers provide information to the audience at sporting, performing arts, and other events. Work environment.
Announcers usually work in well-lighted, air-conditioned, soundproof studios. Announcers often work within tight schedules, which can be physically and mentally stressful. For many announcers, the intangible rewards—creative work, many personal contacts, and the satisfaction of becoming widely known—far outweigh the disadvantages of irregular and often unpredictable hours, work pressures, and disrupted personal lives. The broadcast day is long for radio and TV stations—many are on the air 24 hours a day—so announcers can expect to work unusual hours.
Many present early-morning shows, when most people are getting ready for work or commuting, while others do late-night programs. The shifts, however, may not be as varied as in the past because new technology is allowing stations to eliminate some of the overnight hours. How did you start off as an anchor? I’ve been performing in stage shows in school since I was four. Later, while I was doing my Mass Communications from Jamia Milia Islamia, Usha Albuquerque offered me the anchor’s job on a career show called Hum Honge Kamyaab. This came out of the blue as I was not planning on getting into a career in anchoring. But after Hum Honge Kamyaab, I got a lot of other offers as an anchor and there’s been no looking back since.
What is required of an effective anchor?
An effective anchor needs to be quick witted, observant and adaptable to unforeseen situations. Which are the areas one needs to work on constantly to improve as an anchor? One needs to be abreast of what’s happening around, to be in sync with the latest fashion accessories and the prevailing dressing trends. Besides, one should work on his/her wit. Basically, one needs to imbibe and absorb a lot more than what one normally does. An effective anchor needs to be quick witted, observant and adaptable.
- Do you like to work with a ready script?
No, I’ve never done that. All my performances have been impromptu.
- What are the factors you take into consideration before taking up a new assignment?
I look at two factors. One, how much does an assignment appeal to me and can offer me in terms of creative satisfaction.The second factor is obviously the money it gets me.
Does TV anchoring pay well?
It depends. It pays me very well but I can’t be sure of all other anchors. Actually, a lot depends on your popularity. Who are your favourite TV anchors? Jaaved Jafferey, Shekhar Suman, Cyrus Broacha and last but not the least, Amitabh Bachchan.
- What are the stylistic elements you’ve imbibed from them? From Jaaved Jafferey, I’ve learnt a certain amount of mimicry. In Cyrus, I admire the ability to be as natural and effortless as one can be. I admire Shekhar Suman for the way he has maintained himself.
One can’t say whether he is in his early forties or the late twenties. I admire Amitabh Bachchan for the modesty, dignity and grace with which he carries himself.
- Who are your favourite co-anchors? Have you ever co-anchored without a script?
I have enjoyed anchoring Public Demand with a girl called Kahkasha who used to be very sparkling. Ritu, who later went on to become Mahima Chaudhary, is one of my other favourite co-anchors. Yes, I have co-anchored without a script. That’s not a problem. Once you know the content and once you relate well with your co-anchor, that’s no big deal.
How has the Mass Communications course helped you in anchoring? Well, it hasn’t directly helped me in my anchoring but then being a TV anchor, knowing the camera angles and having an idea of when a break is going to be called, obviously facilitates a better performance. What is the idea behind the creation of Encompass Production? I have found most media houses to be specialists in either events, production or else the creatives. ‘Encompass’, as the name suggests, aspires to take up all these activities simultaneously and become a one-stop all-pervasive media house.
So far, we have concentrated more on events but we are now producing two TV serials and a movie, which I will be directing. What training do you recommend for aspiring TV anchors? Well, primarily, I feel they should be well-read, more knowledgeable and have a more rounded worldview. Besides, one needs to work on his/her looks because today looks definitely matter. It is unfortunate that good avenues for formal training in TV anchoring do not exist in our country. I’m trying to do my bit on this front through a series of workshops. Besides, nobody can deny that luck plays a crucial part in your success or failure over here.
Where do you see Encompass Productions ten years down the line? Having evolved as one of the biggest media conglomerates in the country. Where do you see yourself ten years down the line? Personally, I’m getting into film direction because that is what I’m trained in. Fortunately or unfortunately, the easy money that TV anchoring gave me tied me to it for far too long. But now, I’m fully charged to give film direction a shot. Ten years down the line, I see myself being a successful director of movies.
How to Become a TV Reporter or News Anchor
Being a TV reporter/anchor takes sacrifice. On the surface it seems like a glamorous job but those of us who have worked in the industry know it is just the opposite. There is, however, no other job like it in the world. If you like deadline pressure, doing something new every day and making a difference it may be the job for you.
- Start at a small market television station: Everyone has visions of taking over the NBC Nightly News anchor desk, but the truth of the matter is a tiny portion of people who get into the TV news business will ever make it to a top 10 market.
- It’s a good idea to start your career in a small market because you can learn all aspects of the business. You will likely do everything like; report, produce, anchor, shoot video, edit and maybe even run the teleprompter with your foot! You’ll also get the opportunity to make your mistakes. Audiences are much more forgiving in Mobile, Alabama than they are in New York City.
- Be willing to get little pay…at least in the beginning of your career. The average reporter job in a small market gets paid between $15,000 and $18,000 a year. Shocked right?
- Contrary to popular belief most TV personalities are not rolling in dough. Television news is a field where the supply outweighs the demand. Basically there are more people who want to be on TV than there are available positions. That’s part of the reason why pay is not competitive. Also, if you start at a small market station, you will get small market pay. It’s the nature of the business. If making a lot of money in your career is important to you don’t get into TV news!
- Forget about holidays at home: The truth is you will hardly ever get holidays off. You will most likely be working. Established main anchors at TV stations will most likely get holidays off which means you will be stuck at work. If you constantly move markets every couple of years to increase your salary and experience you will always be the new kid on the block, which means you won’t have seniority. So, you can kiss Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July and Labor Day goodbye. Also “sweeps” months (when stations monitor how many people are watching) will be off limits for vacation time. These months include: February, May, July and November.
- Be willing to move anywhere to get your first job: Jobs are so competitive that you can’t be choosy when landing your first job. Sure, you may want to hold out for San Diego, California but if Biloxi, Mississippi offers you your first job you should probably say yes.
- Go to college: Most TV stations require that you have a college degree preferably in broadcast journalism. Some schools that have top broadcast journalism programs are University Missouri Columbia, Northwestern University, Syracuse University and Arizona State University.
- Learn how to speak well: Your voice is key in this field. You should concentrate now on projection, enunciation and inflexion. All of these things will help you deliver your “script” in a compelling nature. Be authoritative in your speech. This will give you credibility with your audience. Read newspapers and magazines aloud. Listen to the best journalists in the field when they speak and try to emulate them.
- Learn how to write for TV: You of course learn some of this in school. Writing for TV is very different from writing a term paper. You need to learn how to write to the images your audience will see on TV. It’s called writing to video. Also, you should keep writing simple and stay away from legalese and cliches. You have only one shot to get the attention of folks at home.
- Be willing to work all the time: You may be placed on the morning shift, the evening shift, a split shift and the weekend shift at any given moment. New reporters especially have very little say in the hours they work. Working overtime is very common and few stations pay overtime.
- Create a resume tape: A resume tape is a reel that shows a sample of your reporting/anchoring skills. It usually starts with a slate – a brief showing of your name and contact information. The slate is usually followed by a montage, which is a short segment of compelling live shots, samples of reporting and anchoring. The montage is then followed by three of your best stories. The best way to get your first resume tape is to do one in school otherwise it can be quite expensive. When your tape is done you send it on VHS format along with a cover letter and resume to news directors at the stations you are interested in. Then, you wait and cross your fingers. Be Persistent: Don’t stop until you get that first job! Persistence is an invaluable skill any reporter/anchor should have.
Join a professional association for broadcast journalists like the National Association of Broadcasters, Radio Television News Directors Association, National Association of Asian Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists or the National Association of Hipic Journalists, to name a few.
- TV news is a small and incestuous field. Everyone knows everyone and reputations spread quickly.
- TV news is not for the faint of heart. If you have problems with stress and working on a deadline, try another field. If your feelings are easily hurt this may not be the best field for you.