Watching the local news on TV this morning, I wondered why local TV morning news anchors are so smooth and relaxed when they talk to the camera, and so awkward and stilted when they talk to each other.
I reached out to Sam Extraserious, a top local morning news anchor here in Los Angeles for some insight.
“Sam, thanks for taking my call.”
“No, problem, Mr, Ditzel. I’m here to provide insight, news and analysis to you and and all our loyal viewers on the topics that interest them.”
I said, “Well, this is just something I noticed. When local morning TV anchors talk to the camera, they are smooth. When they talk to each other, Sam, really, it’s so awkward and uncomfortable they make me cringe.”
“Joe, it’s because news has changed. When I went to Ohio University for Broadcast Journalism, we learned to deliver solid new without any of the malarkey and balderdash so common on the air today. Then, these “news consultants,” whoever they are, came up with the concept of “happy talk” where we had to chat and banter with the other anchors.”
“I remember that, it was in the mid 80s or so.”
“Right, I was having none of it. I couldn’t see my hero, Walter Cronkite, ever delivering “happy talk,” so I was against it. But the station manager said, do it or you are out. Joe, I had three kids in college, four ex-wives and 5 sports cars to pay for. I had to do it.”
“But wait, let me challenge you right there. What’s wrong with a little friendly conversation with the other talent on the news desk?”
“Joe, I’m a newsman. My father was a radio newsman, and my grandfather was a legendary newspaperman. I deliver the news, not happy talk.”
“Right, but you can deliver the news AND be sociable. Didn’t you socialize at Ohio University when you were there. I graduated there myself, and I know it is one of the biggest party schools in the country.”
“Joe, the only reason it is a party school is because it is in the middle of bloody nowhere. There is nothing else to do. But no, I didn’t have time so socialize. I was practicing my news delivery. I used to walk to class, narrating the things around me like it was a newscast. ‘A squirrel was seen scampering across the college green today, film at 11.’ That kind of stuff.”
“So you are saying news people learn to deliver the news, but don’t know how to be friendly and chat with each other?”
“Chat with each other. We HATE each other! We are all competing for fewer jobs. This is a shrinking business. We have 10 stations in town with 9000 hours of news a week all covering the same lame stories. Heck, our big investigative team broke the news of people parking illegally with handicapped placards. That was our big investigation for the sweeps. It’s chaos, Mr. Ditzel. DOG EAT DOG. There’s your answer! OK, you want the truth. We are awkward n the air because we really hate each other.”
“Oh I don’t know if that is true.”
“I do! I hate those people. All these young kids coming up, with their white teeth and perfect skin. Nobody even smokes cigarettes anymore! It’s chaos and madness!”