Perfectly coiffed hair, a charming disposition, and a million-dollar smile. Who am I describing? No, not Robert Downey, Jr., but the men and women you see on your evening news each night – the anchors.
News anchors are the faces of our world’s news at all levels, especially at the collegiate level, where anchors are recognized easily around campus (so here’s a tip, anchors: don’t try to get away with pajamas in class, and beware the Walk of Shame).
To get an idea of what a student anchor does, I sat down for coffee with Alaina Richard, a mass communications major with a broadcast journalism concentration at Louisiana State University and an anchor for Tiger TV’s Newsbeat.
Richard first auditioned to be an anchor her freshman year – against older students’ warnings. Though freshmen usually work through the ranks to get the anchor job and are rarely selected, Richard was determined. “I really wanted to do it, so I auditioned and ended up getting the job.”
She began as Newsbeat’s weather girl, a job that she enjoyed immensely. Believe it or not, the weather girl’s job is more than just pointing to the screen, smiling and mentioning the incoming cold front that everyone prays for come July. Part of her job included putting together the forecast graphics for the segment, which she would work on before each show, and writing her own script.
The next semester, Richard transitioned to being a main anchor, a different experience than the segment anchors.
“All the segment anchors collect their own information, a lot of their own footage and materials and write their own scripts,” said Richard. “Main anchors read from a pre-prepared script.” This is reflected in the compensations for each job: segment anchors are paid per story, while main anchors are “paid with experience”.
As we enjoyed our cups of whipped-creamed wonders, I asked Richard what the most important aspect of news anchoring was. “Having a great dynamic and rapport with your co-anchor is key,” she answered. “If you have really great chemistry with someone, the ad-libbing comes more naturally and looks better on the screen.”
I urged Richard to share a funny story from the show. She laughed and happily obliged: “As the weather girl, it can be hard to point to the right places on the green screen while keeping your eye on the prompter and talking through your points and connecting with the camera,” she said. “Sometimes, I just look at my hand and it’s doing this weird claw thing because I wasn’t paying attention.”
Looking back on her work with the station, Richard knows it has impacted her career ambitions. “I was always interested in theater, so I thought I’d really want to be on the screen,” she said. “But I really enjoyed the behind the scenes work – choosing and writing stories, doing the investigating.”
Richard has still not entirely decided on what jobs she’ll be looking at come graduation in 2014, but she’s excited to keep doing her job with Tiger TV.
To get a sense of how journalistically savvy Richard really is, check out this video from her Tumblr of her meeting Mitt Romney and trying to get him to answer the tough questions: