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Never Breaking Character

"Anchors develop skills to use their intonation, facial expressions and body language in a variety of ways to communicate many things. They can read an important story one way, a tragic story another, and transition quickly to a lighter delivery--all to portray the mood of the moment."
--Byron, What Local Stations Don't Want You to Know

Maybe it's because I'm an actor, but what's always struck me about television news reporters are the kind of things Byron mentions--they have such an incredible focus as performers and never really drop their whole professional character. They have to be versatile because of the broad range of things they cover, and when they're newer and not quite as settled into their character it's easy to spot--I think Demetrius Ivory from WTAE has had a hard time comfortably settling into his character, his behavior's kind of stiff and forced. I also noticed this in the Onion spoof; Lane Everett never drops her serious reporter character even though there is tremendous confusion. These reporters are never just like normal people you see on the street--they're like, hyper-real. They're good at convincing you they really know what they're talking about and are in charge of things. These are qualities good actors have, so you wonder how much time on-air reporters spend training themselves to develop a solid on-air persona. Certainly, it takes away from their being journalists who really understand what they're reading. What would happen if TV journalists all of a sudden dropped the act and just talked like everyday people? Maybe their diction would be less good, so it might be harder to understand them. They might not be able to glean as much meaning from the words. So I suppose that in a way the fact that these people are more actors than they are journalists can be a good thing. You need people who are good at conveying meaning in a strong, clear voice. I think where things tend to get to be too much is when there is more focus on cultivating a personality, a fully-dimensional character, than on conveying the news itself. Like in theatre, you always want to be in line with the intentions of the playwright and not try to shift all the attention to yourself. The best on-air reporters do this, adding just enough personality to draw you in, but not making them and their relationship with the other people at the desk more important than the information they're delivering.

Comments (1)

Josie Rush:

You do a good job of describing the catch 22 of news personalities. If they actually act human, as opposed to "hyper real" (a really apt description), they may lose some of their ability to convey meaning. However, if they continue to stay in their rigid personas, they will continue to be criticized for insincerety. What's an anchor to do?

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