Tips for Becoming a News Anchor

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Have you ever wanted to be the person on the other side of the camera telling the world about the breaking news story? You can take concrete steps to make your dream come true and become a news anchor.

Paving the Path to the News

Your journey to news anchor won't start on the couch while you're wistfully dreaming about being on the other side of the television. To make your dream a reality, your first stop should be a good university. Although not necessarily mandatory, most hiring managers at today's news stations won't even consider an applicant who doesn't have a bachelor's degree in communications or English. These and related majors require students to practice their verbal and written communication skills so they can learn how to make the most of these assets—tools you'll need night after night on the news.

However, a degree is only part of the equation. Most hiring managers want applicants to have some experience in media before they take a chance on you. Thus, while you are in college, you should work on the school's newspaper, radio station, or other media outlet as much as possible. The higher you can go in these venues, the better your chance of impressing a hiring manager. You should also acquire more experience with the Internet, including blogging. With so many news stations incorporating their web sites into their coverage of the news, this experience can give you a competitive advantage.

Finally, do not leave college without securing an internship for at least a semester at a television news station. Internships are usually unpaid, but you will receive college credit for the experience. More importantly, you'll have your first real shot at networking with the people who can get you a job and you'll be getting first-hand experience (mostly behind the scenes) that can pay off for you when you hit the real job market.

If you excel in your internship, you will have a good chance of getting a job offer from the station. You may not get hired to read the news in front of the camera, but any paying experience in a real news room will be invaluable down the road.

Understanding the Job

Many people who dream of becoming a news anchor do not realize what is involved in the job. A first step is to understand the requirements and responsibilities of the position—which is another reason why the internship and college experience are so beneficial as you'll be able to see firsthand the demands of the job.

Most news anchors do not just read the news. Writing is often a crucial part of the position because they have to prepare their own stories, which means conducting research and interviews for stories. This may also mean traveling into unfamiliar areas and working very long hours. During the early part of your career, you might have to miss out on family holidays for work. You also need to be prepared for a lot of stress. As the news broadcast approaches, the station will become hectic as everyone finishes last-minute details to get the show on the air.

As a news anchor, you'll also have to work on being unbiased. For example, when you present a story on a presidential candidate, you cannot allow your own feelings about the individual or the story to color your presentation of the news. Your job is not to persuade the audience, but to inform. Although some events, such as the 9/11 tragedy, are so moving that the audience and station managers are likely to overlook displays of emotion by their news anchors, this is usually not considered good journalism.

Landing a First News Anchor Job

There are two keys to landing your dream job: a great audition tape and a willingness to start small. Unlike other jobs that require only a written résumé and cover letter, if you want someone to consider your application for a news anchor position, you'll need to submit an audition tape. To create the tape, use a digital recorder so you can either send a CD-Rom copy by mail or a file via the Internet. Consider hiring a professional to handle the videotaping so the quality will be very high. Recording a real news broadcast you've done—either as an intern or at your college's television station—is even better.

Of course, another important issue is where to send the audition tape. Most news anchors do not start off in New York or Los Angeles. They begin at smaller stations in smaller cities where they can gain greater experience in front of the camera. You may even have to start off as a reporter covering news on the streets of a small town before you can find yourself behind the camera.

However, you should remember that where you are working as a news anchor is not important; rather, every experience you have with the camera will help you move closer to your ultimate goal.

Succeeding as a News Anchor

One of the biggest challenges news anchors face involves personal grooming. They are the face of the news and must look well-kept and attractive at all times. You don't have to look like a fashion model, but you do need to take care of yourself. A hair and make-up team will help you once you secure a job, but during auditions you'll be on your own. Never underestimate the importance of personal grooming to a news anchor.

In addition, you should hone your vocal skills. Not everyone is born with a great voice for public speaking, but almost everyone can learn how to become a great speaker. Remember that practice makes perfect. A good voice—blended with a pleasing appearance—will help you land a job as a news anchor.
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