What Does a TV News Anchor Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
A TV news anchor is a person who presents televised local, national, and world news to the public. They may work along with a co-anchor as representatives 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.
TV News Anchor Duties & Responsibilities
This career generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Present the news to viewers in a professional, calm, and friendly manner.
- Ensure their appearance properly represents the face of the network.
- Participate in helping to formulate news stories by pitching ideas and providing feedback on content.
- Quality check each story to ensure grammatical correctness, accuracy, and clarity.
- Attend meetings in preparation for each day's newscast and help producers form the structure of each program.
- Participate in researching and writing news stories.
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 and 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 come 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.
TV News Anchor Salary
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 makes at least $250,000 into the millions. In these cases, a talent agent is often used to negotiate the anchor's contract. However, salaries have generally been trending downward due to the economy and the declining ratings of many newscasts.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes salary information for TV news anchors under reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts as follows:
- Median Annual Salary: $66,880 ($32.15/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $200,180 ($96.24/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $27,370 ($13.16/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
In addition, PayScale provides earnings information for news anchors:
- Median Annual Salary: $58,852 ($28.29/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $130,110 ($62.55/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $32,709 ($15.73/hour)
Source: PayScale.com, 2019
Education, Training, & Certification
To become a TV news anchor, you will need a certain level of education and experience:
- Education: A TV news anchor usually has a bachelor's degree in communications; journalism; or radio, television, and film. However, there are exceptions. For example, network news anchor Katie Couric has a degree in English, CBS News anchor Scott Pelley attended Texas Tech University but didn't graduate, and legendary ABC News anchor Peter Jennings didn't graduate from high school. Nevertheless, these are rare circumstances, so it is best to complete a degree in this field to increase the chances of breaking into the industry.
- Training: On-the-job training can increase the likelihood of getting 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. Experience can be gained at a college or university, as many now have TV facilities.
- Experience: The easiest route to becoming a TV news anchor is to start as a TV news reporter. This strengthens on-camera skills so the TV news anchor is comfortable with ad-libbing and presents an aura of confidence and authority. Eventually, they may be able to fill in as a substitute anchor, even if it's on Christmas Eve. This gives them the experience to take the next anchor opening at their station, or at least to use their clips to build an anchor resume tape or DVD to get a job elsewhere.
TV News Anchor Skills & Competencies
TV news anchors require the following skills to perform their job successfully:
- Communication skills: A primary skill for this position is the ability to communicate clearly both in writing, editing, and quality-checking news pieces, as well as speaking to a TV audience, newsroom staff, and others
- Interpersonal skills: TV news anchors need to work well with co-anchors, other newsroom staff, as well as news sources, to help develop daily programs. 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 time volunteering, joining civic or charity groups, and speaking to students.
- Stamina: This job requires the ability to work in a fast-paced, stressful environment, where news programs must be ready to air on time. The TV news anchor also needs to adapt to sudden on-air program changes such as delivering late-breaking news without a prepared script.
- Problem-solving skills: 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.
According to the BLS, employment for this career is projected to show little or no change through 2026 due to declining advertising revenue in television. However, as consolidations and mergers continue, the loss of jobs will be limited due to increased funding and resources from larger organizations.
TV news anchors work in offices, conference rooms, and newsrooms either helping to develop daily programs or presenting them on-air to viewers.
Most TV news anchors work full time and may be required to work nights and weekends to lead news programs or provide commentary.
How to Get the Job
Look at media company websites, such as CNBC, Turner Broadcasting, and NBCUniversal for job postings. These companies also offer internships, which can lead to a permanent position. Also, the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA) offers career development and employment opportunities.
USE AVAILABLE RESOURCES
A well-written, current resume is key to getting the right job. Check out available resources on job boards, as well as other career sites for the latest tips and tricks to make your resume stand out among the competition. These sites offer helpful resources such as templates, samples, formatting, and resume-building, as well as tips on preparing for and mastering an interview.
JOIN AN ORGANIZATION
Become a member of an organization such as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the RTDNA, the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA), or the International Association of Broadcasting (IAB). Attend conferences and workshops to connect with other members to stay current on the industry and learn about job opportunities.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in a career as a TV news anchor should consider the following jobs, along with the median annual salary:
- Public Relations Specialist: $47,274
- Radio Show Host: $44,266
- News Reporter: $39,667
- News Producer: $43,527
Source: PayScale.com, 2019