Presenting the news in front of a TV camera may seem like a dream gig -- but the reality is, it takes a special person who possesses the right mix of personality and persistence. Anchormen come from many walks of life, but most have at least some basic qualifications that make them good at what they do, such as a background in writing or journalism and an ability to think on their feet.
As is the case for journalists of all types, the basic required education for an anchorman is a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, English or digital media. People with other degrees or multiple majors in political science, the sciences, medicine or law can also bring depth to a news organization. Often, anchors start out as entry-level reporters, producers or writers who work up the ranks. To make them more attractive candidates, anchormen will often pursue master's degrees in journalism or a specific content area.
Whatever bachelor's degree they've obtained, anchors need to have learned one big thing: how to communicate effectively. A most basic qualification for an anchorman or anchorwoman is the ability to write well, and to understand the mechanics of good writing. Without good writing skills, a reporter, writer or producer is not likely to gain the credibility needed to move up to the anchor spot. During college, all journalists should take classes in journalistic writing, grammar, mechanics and composition, as well as courses that help them learn critical thinking skills.
Anchors also need to have the ability to learn new computer programs or technologies quickly, so they'll be able to present a compelling story for the tech-savvy public. Anchors may send out tweets during a commercial break, set up live broadcasts on the fly to deliver breaking news, or help create maps that show the location of a big story. All of this requires a working knowledge of available technologies, and the ability to determine which new ones will benefit their broadcasts.
Gift of the Gab
Writing is fundamental -- but anchors have to do more than just write words on a page or website. They also have to be able to speak clearly, without fumbling or getting tongue tied. This can be a learned skill; the more time a reporter or journalist spends in front of a camera or microphone, the better they become. To make it to that coveted anchor spot, a journalist will likely be really good at reading scripts out loud, as well as engaging people in conversation. During an on-camera interview, a qualified anchor will be able to draw good responses out of the guest and know how to redirect a conversation that is not going well. Courses in debate, diction, or public speaking can help the anchor learn these skills.
Attention to Detail
Anchors are the face or voice of a news organization, and as such, they're the last line of defense between good reporting and bad, or accurate reporting versus not-so-accurate. A good anchorman will have a keen attention to detail and be able to pick out and correct errors in the short amount of time she has to review the reports before the broadcast. The news changes all the time, and anchors also need to be good at managing the stress of constant changes, even in the middle of a live broadcast. Anchors need to also be analytical thinkers who are able to sort out multiple factors of a story quickly and ask the right questions on the fly.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.