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News Coach: So you want to be an anchor?

So You Want to Be a News Anchor?


I know I know - you want to be an anchor - or the very best anchor!  


Please read below for a reality check.  


  1. If you’re in the beginning third of your career and you’ve been invited for an interview at a television station, saying your goal is to be an anchor could be the kiss of death. Read on please.
  2. If you haven’t already done tons of live shots - hence proving your live capabilities for at least ten seconds a pop - move this goal down on your ‘want list.’
  3. No, anchoring is not really about reading a prompter. It’s about your journalism acumen, reporting capabilities, interviewing skills, interpersonal skills, flexibility, ability to punt, and your ability to report live for four or more hours at a clip when breaking news hits. Any news anchor must be ready to toss the scripts and their anticipated use of the teleprompter. Please note I did not use the phrase ‘dependency on’ here.
  4. Breaking News! Bye-bye prompter. Are you familiar enough with your station’s geographic reach to ad-lib a little to your population? Are you familiar enough with  local and wider-reaching news to have an intellectual perspective on this story? Are you facile using your IFB to receive information and direction from your producers and assistant news director (among others)? How are your interviewing skills? Are you ready for live phoners or on-set interviews?

Here’s the most common trajectory to anchoring, if you really have the itch:   

  •   Accomplishment as a strong, savvy reporter
  • Facility with standups
  • Facility with live hits from the field
  • Introducing your package in the studio using a teleprompter
  • Adding some Q&A with the anchors afterwards
  • OMG! I’ve been asked if I can fill in for Lee (picking a unisex name here) this Saturday night!

Or, as has happened with some of my clients, management may approach you ‘out of the blue’ to consider becoming the [weekend] anchor. Why? Because they trust you.  

So let’s rid your minds of a few very popular misconceptions and dive into the reality of this TV journalism contribution. And yes, if you succeed, you may keep a bit dryer on inclement days.  

Stay tuned for part two in the coming days.

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.


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