The chances are slim that most people in TV news will ever become a top TV News network anchor like Scott Pelley on CBS or a morning anchor like Matt Lauer on NBC or Robin Roberts on ABC. There are simply too few available positions for everyone with ambitions to be a top network anchor star.
Even so, you can find fulfillment in the hundreds of anchor jobs at local TV stations across the country. The salary of a typical TV news anchor won't reach into the millions of dollars. But money alone shouldn't be the key to your happiness. There are five compelling reasons that a TV news anchor job may be right for you.
You Like a Challenge
TV news anchors are faced with a variety of challenges. Brian Williams was already a successful news anchor when he was chosen to replace the legendary Tom Brokaw at NBC. That's a challenge. Coming down to the local level, let's say you're hired to help turn around the Nielsen ratings at the lowest-rated station in town. That presents a different type of challenge. Some people can't face these challenges because they can't predict whether they'll be successful. For TV news anchors, the guarantee of success isn't what drives their decision making. It's more about the opportunity.
You Thrive Under Pressure
During the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anchors from the major broadcast networks down to the tiniest designated market area (DMA) were faced with a story they had never experienced before. All anchors had to keep their composure while reporting on one of the most unthinkably horrible stories of their career.
That required not only to focus but the ability to put personal emotions aside to communicate professionally. Hopefully, we'll never experience another day like that. But a TV news anchor has to be able to remain calm during a time of crisis. Sometimes that crisis is a bad news story. Other times, it involves some on-air technical problems that the anchor has to work through.
Think of election night with a computer failure. The anchor has no election results to report but must fill the time with information. The best anchors will think of something without ever appearing panicked.
You're Willing to Work Long Hours
TV news anchors may appear to have cushy jobs, with their station or network providing clothes, hair care, and make-up. But those typical perks are small rewards considering the personal sacrifices many anchors have to make.
If a hurricane threatens an anchor's hometown, she can forget about being off for the weekend, even if it's her daughter's 16th birthday. Plans have to be canceled on a moment's notice if breaking news demands it.
Then there are the public appearances, photoshoots, speeches, and charity boards that also require attention. A news anchor is a part journalist, part celebrity. Her TV station will use her as a tool to boost ratings and revenue. A news anchor can't expect 9 to 5 work hours.
You'll Accept Public Criticism
It may be the toughest aspect of the job that TV news anchors have to accept. Some viewers won't like you. Female anchors will be criticized for their hair and wardrobe, or be thought of as prima donnas or as being too aggressive.
Male anchors might get a pass on their looks or clothing. But any anchor who is seen as the slightest bit impolite in public will have the whole town talking. You can't brush off a little old lady in a grocery store who wants to talk about her grandchildren even though you have somewhere else to be. And forget about complaining about a lousy meal in a restaurant. The staff will attack you for being rude or arrogant as soon as you walk out the door.
Many TV news anchors will be accused of political bias for the innocent way they asked a candidate a question that was either too nice or too hard-hitting, depending on the individual viewer's perspective. A TV news anchor has to develop a thick skin to realize that you can't please everybody all the time. It's a tough lesson.
You're Willing to Take Career Risks
If you're an anchor in Albany, Georgia, and a TV station in Boise, Idaho, offers you a job for a $10,000 raise, would you take it? The answer to that question can help you determine some of the risk factors that come with a career as a TV news anchor.
Most anchors will prepare themselves for the day that their station doesn't want them anymore. They might be the victim of a media layoff, or they could be fired from their job because their station was sold and the new owners wanted someone else sitting behind the desk.
That's part of the job that can be tough, especially if you have a spouse and children and are suddenly forced to look for work. It's best to have your media resume ready to send out because you never know when you'll need it.
Not everyone who wants to work in TV news can meet these qualifications or are willing to put up with the drawbacks of the job. Notice that none of them have anything to do with being a good journalist. But those who accept these risk factors can find rewards in delivering the news on TV each day.