Network News Anchors: Please quit commenting on stories…

It’s starting to look like the film-school students who didn’t pay enough attention in class are beginning to pollute the art of communication.

First:

It’s become “fashionable” now for the news anchor on the network – choose one: Brian Williams, Scott Pelley, or Diane Sawyer – to add some inane comment after a story has run.

Guys, give it up…!

The reporter has done a lot of hard work, actually going out and reporting on the story, and you as the anchor are only the news reader. When you comment on the story, you take away from the impact and the point of the story.

And you disrespect all the work the field correspondent and their crew have put into the story – from lead-chasing, to interviews, to the standup, to B-roll*, and editing.

I still remember listening to a lecture by a leading network news contributor, back in those days when I was in radio. The guy had an excellent main point, and it still rings true:

Just do the damn news! Everything else is editorial! People will tune you out if you start watering down the news by editorializing. Also remember that in cases of loss of life, you are being disrespectful.

It appears that the network anchors need to hear this lecture once again.

Just use the tried-and-true method of extro: “Correspondent Bob Smith, in London. Turning to…” (subject of the next story)

Now, doesn’t that sound WAY more professional than, “Looks like those riots have caused a lot of damage!” (Especially when the correspondent has already said that the damage was limited to a certain area.)

Second:

I’m a lighting guy so I notice stuff like this:

Anchor desk lighting lately (especially on CBS!) looks like something that was thrown together because the light grid went down. I cite CBS specifically because Scott Pelley looks really uncomfortable.

The normal style of lighting is “Empire Lighting”, also known as “butterfly lighting” (for the butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose); which highlights the best features on both men and women.

Instead now we have something that looks like LED-based “blast panels” (so named because they’re a panel that ‘blasts’ the light in one direction) and the silly things are set up immediately to camera-left and camera-right. You can see the reflection in the anchor’s eyes, and it looks like the anchor is uncomfortable as heck trying to read the prompter.

Jeez, who hired these guys anyway? Have we fired all the professionals lately, or have they retired in disgust?

Isn’t Network News supposed to be the pinnacle of achievement, for Producers, Readers , Anchors, Lighting Engineers, and Technical Crew?

.

*Just a note here: From a guy who’s shot an awful lot of B-roll: B-roll shooters are the great unsung heroes of television. We work really hard and take a lot of risks to get good B-roll footage. As a reward, our footage makes the news, often not on the story we’re shooting, but usually later. And we get absolutely no credit for great work. 

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