Friday, July 27, 2012

Are you talkin' to me?

I never wanted to be a fulltime anchor. I liked being out of the building, doing something different every day. Besides, I didn't have the classic anchor "look" anyway. But I did fill in a lot, and always enjoyed the occasional turn on the desk.

I grew up watching the news in New York City. The anchors there had a certain energy, a way of "talking" to the viewer that made it seem as if you were having a conversation with someone on television. Watch that for a few decades and it becomes ingrained in you; this is how anchors are supposed to deliver the news. In my case, it was fast, conversational, leaning on one elbow occasionally as if I were talking to a friend.

I remember one time I was called in at the last minute to fill in on the morning show. The script had been written for the regular anchor, and I'd had no chance to go over it. So I get through the first block clean, we go to a break, and here comes the director. "Will you please slow down? We're already a minute thirty under and it's just the first break."

To me I was reading naturally, but I was reading at a New York speed and wasn't in New York. I slowed it down, it felt awkward.

Because I was now reading, not talking.

I just got back from a long road trip. Some hotels were in big markets, some small. But I didn't need to know what city I was in when I woke up. Just turn on the television. Anchor reading? Small town. Anchor talking? Big city. I look at the television and start channeling DeNiro from Taxi Driver: "Are you talkin' to me? Or are you just readin' some script?"

That's not to say that there aren't great anchors in smaller markets or lousy anchors in big ones. But for the most part, the most successful anchors in the business have a way of talking to the viewer in a relaxed manner that still conveys energy.

You can learn a lot by watching big market and network people. But you can learn how to talk instead of read by turning your television into a radio. If you're new to the business or your career isn't going anywhere, spend a week just listening. Don't watch the television; flip between the channels, between local and network, and listen to the deliveries. Listen to various resume tapes available online. When you're putting your resume tapes together or looking at your airchecks, don't watch, listen.

I've had a lot of clients who talk when they're reporting but turn into robotic readers on the anchor desk. Viewers don't want to hear automated voices when they watch news; they want to hear real people. The way you talk should be the way you anchor. Anything else is just unnatural, and is a hard sell, both to a viewer and a News Director.

So spend some time just listening; I'll bet the light bulb will go on for many of you and your anchoring will improve.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2012 © Randy Tatano. All rights reserved


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