You can always tell the anchors who are solely dependent on the prompter. When the thing goes out, and it always does at some point, it's a parade of "uh...well...uh..." and a bunch of stumbles.
The old fashioned paper script is your friend. It's your safety net, your guide. The sooner you get that idea through your head, the better you'll be as an anchor. It's like the rear view mirror in your car. You need to check it every few seconds. As an anchor, you want to glance at your script the same way.
Yesterday we talked about marking your script for camera changes. But there's a lot more you can add to a script to make your anchoring better. Remember, the black Sharpie is your friend.
(By the way, this assumes you actually rehearse before your newscast. This means reading it out loud. More about why this is crucial later.)
-Underline words or phrases you want to punch. There are keys in every story, since you don't just read the script in a monotone. Identify the keys and highlight them.
"We could go over the fiscal cliff this week if Congress doesn't start working together."
"Lindsay Lohan is in trouble again."
-Use arrows to indicate your tone. Some anchors use a down arrow for a somber story, and up arrow for a happy feature.
-Use breath marks if you have a really long sentence or want to pause for effect. You'll find these places when you read aloud. Remember, if you run out of breath when reading a sentence, the sentence is too long. Chop it in half. But if you're one of those people who runs out of gas with sentences of normal lengths, or if you want a slight pause in a sentence, you can put slashes in your sentences called breath marks / which look like that.
-Note which camera you're reading to on the top of the page with big, bold numbers and which camera you're turning to on the bottom.
-Write the names of your weather and sports people on your pages for those segments. You'd be amazed how easily you can forget this stuff.
-Write ideas for cross talk on those same pages. You might write "freeze warning" for your toss to weather and "Mets make stupid trade again" for your chit-chat with the sports guy.
Finally, don't always throw your script away after the newscast. If you had trouble with a certain story, go back and take a look at the script. Was your sentence too long? What words made you stumble? Could you have avoided it by rehearsing more?
Remember, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. When you get the opportunity to anchor, make sure you're prepared. Marking your script can go a long way toward that... and making your own luck.