10 Things a News Anchor Should Never Do

A photo of a TV news anchor getting angry while on camera.
The reputation a news anchor has built can be ruined in seconds by making one of 10 common mistakes. Photo © Image Source / Getty Images

A TV news anchor has to have many special characteristics in order to be successful with viewers. There's charisma, credibility and friendliness to name a few.

Not every newscast is going to go perfectly, because it's live television. But there are 10 on-air mistakes news anchors can make that would hurt their relationship with viewers, cause the station's Nielsen ratings to nosedive and cost them their career.

Read Scripts Cold

Some news anchors are meticulous in their preparation for a broadcast, approving every script, making changes and rehearsing to make sure they pronounce every word correctly and not get tongue-tied. Other anchors drink coffee all day and wing it.

Those anchors are risking looking stupid on the air if they don't know how to say Shiite properly. Because many news producers who write the scripts are young and inexperienced, lazy anchors are putting their reputation in the hands of a potential rookie.

Assume You're Not on the Air/Microphones Are Not Hot

Many TV news bloopers are committed by news anchors who assume they're not on the air and their microphones are turned off. That is a risky assumption to make.

Production technicians make mistakes. Sometimes the equipment doesn't work properly. In either case, if a news anchor is telling a dirty joke to a colleague during a commercial break, he could accidentally be on the air when he thinks he's in the clear.

A viewer who witnesses the joke-telling is going to blame the anchor for being a bonehead, regardless of whether a behind-the-scenes mishap was responsible for the error.

Panic

Every news anchor is going to be put into a high-pressure situation while sitting at the anchor desk. Perhaps it's during an unscripted breaking news event.

Something goes wrong, so the people in the control room ask the anchor to fill some time while they work out the problem. Adlibbing on TV comes easy to some anchors, but it's a struggle for others. But even in the highest-stress environment, an anchor has to maintain a sense of calm and control and not look confused, overwhelmed or fearful.

Yawn

There are days that any job is boring, including being on a live TV newscast. That doesn't give a news anchor permission to look bored or tired on the air.

One of the keys to being a good anchor is having a high-energy level on the air. An anchor has to look interested in the information and appear eager to tell viewers about it. Getting caught yawning on the air ruins the atmosphere that the station is attempting to create.

Get Angry or Curse

Even at the network level, there are newscasts that implode for one reason or another. Maybe there was an egregious fact error in a script. Maybe none of the videos ran properly because of equipment failure. A news anchor can never show anger at these mistakes or be seen yelling or cursing at someone or something.

While anchors should appear human on the air, that's one emotion that shouldn't be allowed to erupt at any time for any reason.

These days, an on-air explosion of anger will be posted on YouTube or on social media within minutes. An anchor would find it nearly impossible to recover from it.

Smile or Laugh at Inappropriate Times

Anger is never good. Smiling or even laughing is sometimes okay, but not during serious news. For example, a news anchor could be reading a story about child abuse, while off camera, someone walks in the studio, trips and knocks over a bunch of props.

That might be funny, but not in the context of what the viewer at home sees. Viewers might see the anchor get the giggles while speaking about child abuse. If that happened, an anchor would be forced to apologize on the air and explain why he was laughing.

Show Bias

A news anchor reads a story about the city's mayor making some outlandish proposal.

Unfortunately, the anchor rolls his eyes in disgust when reaching the end of the story, not realizing that everyone at home saw what happened.

Certainly, word would reach the mayor's office about what happened. That would doom the relationship the anchor has with city hall and might even hurt the station's relationship as well. These days, watchdog groups and critics are always on the lookout for political bias in news, either real or imagined. An anchor's gestures shouldn't become ammunition against the station.

Endorse a Product

It's never a good idea to risk your impartiality in endorsing a product. You trade your credibility to become a pitchman. It will be very difficult to regain the audience's trust.

But there are instances when you can mention a product or business. For instance, after a story about a festival celebrating Volkswagen Beetle cars, you could say that you used to own one and wished you still had it. You're not telling viewers to go buy a VW. Another example is if your news team is collecting money for The Salvation Army outside of a Walmart store, you can tell people to come on down to Walmart to help a great cause. These are the exceptions, so be careful.

Show Disrespect for a Co-Anchor

Members of some news teams are genuine friends off the air. Other news teams have to fake it, because in real life the anchors, meteorologist and sports anchor can't stand each other. But every news team should show on-air camaraderie, no matter what the reality may be.

Viewers will feel uncomfortable watching a station's newscast if they feel as though there are problems with the anchor team. An anchor taking an on-air dig at a colleague would be a disaster. Sure, it's sometimes fun to see an anchor take a good-natured ribbing. But viewers can detect disrespectful behavior.

Insult a Guest

There are times when even a mild-mannered news anchor has to ask tough questions of a guest while live on the air. But that should never cross the line into insulting behavior, which might be acceptable on talk radio, but not on a traditional TV newscast.

A news anchor must craft questions carefully, so that while probing for information it never seems as though the anchor is belittling the person who may be evasive or becoming angry. It takes practice, a cool head and a realization that a host should always be welcoming to even the most difficult interview subject.