TV News Anchor Career Profile and Job Description

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019 

A TV news anchor is a person who presents a newscast in the studio and this career path is one of the most highly-sought after in media. Often, a man and woman are paired as co-anchors to be the faces of the station both on-air and in the community. Their roles are important because they are what turn a day's variety of news stories into a cohesive TV program.

Salary Range for a TV News Anchor

A TV news anchor's salary covers a wide range. In a small designated market area, an entry-level morning or weekend news anchor at an affiliate station may not earn much more than a typical reporter, possibly $25,000 to $30,000. On the other end of the scale, a major market anchor with decades of experience can make $250,000 and up. Network news anchors earn in the millions. A talent agent is often used to negotiate contracts. However, salaries have generally been trending downward due to the economy and the declining ratings of many newscasts.

Education and Training Required to Become a TV News Anchor

A TV news anchor usually has a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or radio/TV/film. But you'll find many exceptions. Network news anchor Katie Couric has a degree in English. CBS News anchor Scott Pelley attended Texas Tech University but didn't graduate. Legendary ABC News anchor Peter Jennings didn't even graduate from high school.

On-the-job training is important, and why it's possible, although not easy, to forego formal education and still get hired as a TV news anchor. It takes practice to hone a conversational, yet professional vocal delivery and to know how to handle last-minute changes that take place just before airtime. But now that many colleges and universities have TV facilities, this training can be found on campus.

Special Skills Needed to Be a TV News Anchor

Some TV news anchor skills can't be taught in a classroom. One is the ability to ad lib without a script, similar to what a stage actor might do during a play. A TV news anchor has to be able to keep talking if a piece of equipment breaks down during a live newscast, or to ask a question of a reporter at the end of a story or especially in the case of breaking news when there's no time to write scripts.

Because a TV news anchor is the face of a station or network, there's also an understood requirement for community involvement. This means anchors will spend their own time volunteering, joining civic, or charity groups and speaking to students.

A Typical Day for a TV News Anchor

A newsroom meeting is usually held when the anchors arrive so that they can be briefed on the day's news. Because the news cycle is typically 24 hours, anchors walk in while stories are in the process of being completed. This meeting informs the anchors which story will lead the newscast, which ones are still being investigated and allows the anchors to pitch their own ideas and help the newscast producers develop the structure of the program.

Many anchors will take the time to edit their own copy. That can be as simple as changing some wording so that a script will sound natural when they read it on the air. Others have formal titles such as managing editor, which means they also approve the reporters' scripts for grammar, clarity, accuracy, and fairness. The best anchors are involved in the writing of the news and aren't simply news readers.

The hour before a newscast is the most intense period for a TV news anchor. That's the time late-breaking stories are coming in, revisions are made to scripts and the anchor prepares mentally to deliver the news. That preparation ensures that an anchor will be confident and relaxed when the cameras are turned on.

Getting Started as a TV News Anchor

The easiest route to becoming a TV news anchor is to start as a TV news reporter. You'll be able to strengthen your on-camera skills so you're comfortable with ad-libbing and present an aura of confidence and authority. Eventually, you will be able to fill in as a substitute anchor, even if it's on Christmas Eve. That will give you the experience to take the next anchor opening at your station, or at least to use your clips to build an anchor resume tape or DVD to get a job somewhere else.