News anchors analyze and broadcast news for radio and television stations. They help select, write, and present the news and may specialize in a particular area. Interviewing guests, making public service announcements, and conducting panel discussions may also be part of the news anchor’s work. Approximately 69,000 people are employed as announcers (including news anchors) at radio and television stations in the United States.
News Anchor Career History
Guglielmo Marconi, a young Italian engineer, first transmitted a radio signal in his home in 1895. Radio developed rapidly as people began to comprehend the tremendous possibilities. The stations KDKA in Pittsburgh and WWWJ in Detroit began broadcasting in 1920. Within 10 years, there were radio stations in all the major cities in the United States, and broadcasting became big business. In 1926 the National Broadcasting Company became the first network when it linked together 25 stations across the country. The Columbia Broadcasting System was organized in the following year. In 1934, the Mutual Broadcasting Company was founded. The years between 1930 and 1950 may be considered the zenith years of the radio industry. With the coming of television, radio broadcasting took second place in importance as entertainment for the home—but radio’s commercial and communications value should not be underestimated.
Discoveries that led to the development of television can be traced as far back as 1878, when William Crookes invented a tube that produced the cathode ray. Other inventors who contributed to the development of television were Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian-born scientist who came to this country at the age of 20 and is credited with inventing the iconoscope before he was 30; Charles Jenkins, who invented a scanning disk, using certain vacuum tubes and photoelectric cells; and Philo Farnsworth, who invented an image dissector. WNBT and WCBW, the first commercially licensed television stations, went on the air in 1941 in New York. Both suspended operations during World War II but resumed them in 1946 when television sets began to be manufactured on a commercial scale.
As radio broadcasting was growing across the country in its early days, the need for news anchors grew. They identified the station and brought continuity to broadcast time by linking one program with the next as well as participating in many programs. When television began, many radio announcers and newscasters started to work in the new medium. The emergence of cable television and the Internet has opened up new opportunities for news anchors.
News Anchor Job Description
News anchors specialize in presenting the news to the listening or viewing public. They report the facts and may sometimes be asked to provide editorial commentary. They may write their own scripts or rely on the station’s writing team to write the script, which they then read over the TelePrompTer. Research is important to each news story and the news anchors should be well-informed about each story they cover as well as those they simply introduce. News anchors may also report the news, produce special segments, and conduct on-the-air interviews and panel discussions. At small stations, they may even keep the program log, run the transmitter, and cue the changeover to network broadcasting.
News anchors are faced with constant deadlines, not only for each newscast to begin, but also for each one to end. Each segment must be viewed and each script must be read at the precise time and for a specified duration during the newscast. While they must appear calm, professional, and confident, there is often much stress and tension behind the scenes.
Although they perform similar jobs, radio and television news anchors work in very different atmospheres. On radio, the main announcers or anchor people are also the disc jockeys. They play recorded music, announce the news, provide informal commentary, and serve as a bridge between the music and the listener. They announce the time, weather, news, and traffic reports while maintaining a cheerful and relaxed attitude. At most stations, the radio announcers also read advertising information or provide the voices for the advertising spots.
For television news anchors, research, writing, and presenting the news is only part of the job. Wardrobe, make-up, and presentation are major components of a television anchor’s job. Many details such as which hairstyles and which outfits to wear are important to create an effective look for the news.
Some radio or television news anchors specialize in certain aspects of the news such as health, economics, politics, or community affairs. Other anchors specialize in sports. These people cover sports events and must be highly knowledgeable about the sports they are covering as well as having an ability to describe events quickly and accurately as they unfold. Sports anchors generally travel to the events they cover and spend time watching the teams or individuals practice and participate. They research background information, statistics, ratings, and personal interest information to provide the audience with the most thorough and interesting coverage of each sports event.
The Internet and the World Wide Web are changing the job of news anchors in radio and television. Many radio and television stations have their own Web sites where listeners and viewers can keep updated on current stories, e-mail comments and suggestions, and even interact with the anchors and reporters. Also, the World Wide Web has become another resource for anchors as they research their stories.
Because their voices and faces are heard and seen by the public on a daily basis, many radio and television news anchors become well-known public personalities. This means that they are often asked to participate in community activities and other public events.
News Anchor Career Requirements
In high school, you should focus on a college preparatory curriculum that will teach you how to write and speak and use the English language in literature and communication classes. Subjects such as history, government, economics, and a foreign language are also important. Participation in journalism clubs and on your school newspaper will also help you prepare for this career.
Today, most news anchors have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, political science, economics, telecommunications, or communications. Visit the Web site of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (https://www2.ku.edu/~acejmc/) for a list of accredited postsecondary training programs in journalism and mass communications.
Aspiring radio and television news anchors must have a mastery of the English language—both written and spoken. Their diction, including correct grammar usage, pronunciation, and minimal regional dialect, is extremely important. News anchors need to have a pleasing personality and voice, and, in the case of television anchorpeople, they must also have a pleasing appearance.
News anchors need to be creative, inquisitive, aggressive, and should know how to meet and interact with people—including coworkers and people who they interview to help gather the news.
Exploring News Anchor Career
If you are interested in a career as a news anchor, try to get a summer job at a radio or television station. Although you will probably not have the opportunity to broadcast, you may be able to judge whether or not the type of work appeals to you as a career.
Any chance to speak or perform before an audience should be welcomed. Join the speech or debate team to build strong speaking skills. Appearing as a speaker or performer can show whether or not you have the stage presence necessary for a career in front of a microphone or camera.
Many colleges and universities have their own radio and television stations and offer courses in radio and television. You can gain valuable experience working at college-owned stations. Some radio stations, cable systems, and TV stations offer financial assistance, internships, and co-op work programs, as well as scholarships and fellowships.
Of the roughly 69,000 announcers (including news anchors) working in the United States, almost all are on staff at one of the 14,867 radio stations or 1,793 television stations around the country. However, about 27 percent of announcers work on a freelance basis on individual assignments for networks, stations, advertising agencies, and other producers of commercials.
Some companies own several television or radio stations; some stations belong to networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX, while others are independent. While radio and television stations are located
throughout the United States, major markets where better-paying jobs are found are generally near large metropolitan areas.
Most news anchors start in jobs such as production assistant, researcher, or reporter in small stations. As opportunities arise, it is common for anchors to move from one job to another. Network jobs are few, and the competition for them is great. You must have several years of experience as well as a college education to be considered for these positions.
You must audition before you will be employed as a news anchor. You should carefully select audition material to show a prospective employer the full range of your abilities. In addition to presenting prepared materials, you may be asked to read material that you have not seen previously, such as a commercial, news release, dramatic selection, or poem.
Radio and television news anchors move up by moving on. In other words, one of the main ways to advance within the industry is to move to a larger market or larger station. The ultimate goal of many news anchors is to advance to the network level. Others advance by becoming news directors, station managers, or producers.
According to the 2005 Radio and Television Salary Survey by the Radio-Television News Directors Association, there is a wide range of salaries for news anchors. For radio news anchors, the median salary was $26,000 and the average was $27,808 with a low of $16,000 and a high of $45,000. For television news anchors, the median salary was $55,500 with a low of $9,000 and a high of $300,000. The average earnings reported were $71,100, annually.
Median annual earnings of all announcers (including news anchors) were $22,820 in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Salaries ranged from less than $12,940 to $58,830 or more.
For both radio and television, salaries are higher in larger markets. Salaries are also generally higher in commercial than in public broadcasting. Nationally known news anchors who appear regularly on network television programs receive salaries that may be quite impressive. For those who become top television personalities in large metropolitan areas, salaries also are quite high.
Work in radio and television stations is usually very pleasant. Almost all stations are housed in modern facilities. The maintenance of technical electronic equipment requires temperature and dust control, and people who work around such equipment benefit from the precautions taken to preserve it.
News anchors’ jobs may provide opportunities to meet well-known people or celebrities. Being at the center of an important communications medium can make the broadcaster more keenly aware of current issues and divergent points of view than the average person.
News anchors may report for work at a very early hour in the morning or work late into the night. Some radio stations operate on a 24-hour basis. All-night news anchors may be alone in the station during their working hours.
News Anchor Career Outlook
Competition for entry-level employment in announcing during the coming years is expected to be keen, as the broadcasting industry always attracts more applicants than are needed to fill available openings. There is a better chance of working in radio than in television because there are more radio stations. Local television stations usually carry a high percentage of network programs and need only a very small staff to carry out local operations.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that opportunities for announcers (including news anchors) will decline through 2014 due to the slowing growth of new radio and television stations. Openings will result mainly from those who leave the industry or the labor force. The trend among major networks, and to some extent among many smaller radio and TV stations, is toward specialization. News anchors who specialize in such areas as business, sports, weather, consumer, and health news should have an advantage over other job applicants.
For More Information:
- Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC)
- Broadcast Education Association
- National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians