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TV News Anchors and Journalistic Tradition

How Journalists Adapt to Technology

Kimberly Meltzer

Through the lens of TV news anchors, this book examines the impact that television news has had on traditional journalistic standards and practices. While TV news anchors boost the power, adulation, and authority of journalism in general, internally, the journalistic community feels that anchors undermine many key journalistic values. This book provides a historical overview of the impact they have had on American journalism, uncovering the changing values, codes of behavior, and boundaries of the journalistic community. In doing so, it reveals that challenges to journalistic standards provide an opportunity to engage in debate that is central to maintaining journalism’s identity, and demonstrate the ability of the community to self-regulate. The result is that news anchors are kept in check by the community, and the community is prompted to reexamine itself and evolve. The book’s findings also offer suggestions for thinking about how journalists are dealing with the latest technological challenges posed by the internet and mobile technology.


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CHAPTER 4: The Impact and Consequences of Anchors’ Appearance, Personality, and Emotion 95


Chapter 4 The Impact and Consequences of Anchors’ Appearance, Personality, and Emotion he key dimensions of television journalism—appearance, personality, and emotion—comprise what I am calling an individual TV journalist’s signature style. The anchor’s signature encompasses all of the defining characteristics of the anchor that, when combined, add up to the person we come to know uniquely as “Katie” or “Dan” or “Tom.” Just as the journalistic community has defined appropriate parameters for each of the dimensions comprising the anchor’s signature, it has also maintained exclusionary and limiting provisions for an anchor’s successful signature. A controversial by-product of the successful positioning of the signature journalist on television has been the phenomenon of journalists themselves becoming celebrities. Although print and radio journalists did become well known for their work, the emergence and increasing centrality of appearance, personality, and emotion in TV journalism have increased the degree to which they can be exploited internally by the journalists and recognized externally by audiences. Directly tied in here are changes in the practices of selection, promotion, and financial compensation that over time have come to reward “signature” as much as traditionally defined “good” journalism. The Anchor’s Signature The term “signature” encompasses the entire aura or presence of the anchor: There’s a certain performance aspect to being on camera that’s very important. You have to be able to make people trust you with just a few words out of your mouth which requires a kind of presentation and certain kind of confidence in a...

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