Thursday, December 13, 2012

Anchor tip week: breaking in

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth they broke in reporters on the anchor desk by having us do the cut-ins. It was basically ninety seconds, toss to weather, and that was it. Throw in a vo/sot or two, and you were basically on camera for less than a minute. Do that four times a day for five days, and by Friday you were pretty comfortable on the desk.

Why News Directors don't do this anymore is beyond me, as it is one of the best ideas of the past that has disappeared. Why throw someone in the deep end of the pool when you can let them wade in from the shallow end?

Anyway, after a few weeks of doing cut-ins, a full newscast wasn't a big deal for me.

But since you probably don't have the luxury of practicing during cut-ins, some suggestions.

-Schedule a practice session, perhaps between newscasts when someone can run the prompter for you. Then look at the tape to see how you're doing.

-On the day you anchor, make sure you read your script aloud. By doing this you'll spot the places you might run out of breath, and then you can re-write accordingly.

-If a producer is going to write your script, you need to re-write it to your own style. It's easier to read your own words than those of someone else.

-Go over the script with the director before the newscast. He'll point out any problem spots and make you feel more comfortable.

-Learn to read off the script. Prompters die all the time and you need to keep up the old fashioned way when they do. And you'll be able to see those breath marks and camera changes.

-Make sure you have plenty of breaks in the first newscast. Packages and vo/sots give you a chance to regroup. Nothing is worse for a rookie anchor than to have two straight minutes of copy at the top of the newscast, because if you stumble out of the gate you'll be a snowball going downhill.

-Read normally. Psychologically you'll speed up, since you want the thing to be over with as soon as possible. What this does is make you stumble and causes your voice to get higher, same as a record played at a faster speed. (Sorry for the dinosaur reference, but it's the only way I know to explain it.)

-Make sure you have water on the set. Cotton mouth is a really common problem among rookies.

-What the heck, ask the ND if you can do some cut-ins before your debut. Your morning anchor sure won't complain.

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