Anchors Away


That works out to…. $144,000.00 per hour… Hooray!!!

The Guardian, (and Jeff Jarvis) are reporting today that Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC told a committee of Parliament that he foresaw the end of ‘anchors’ in the near future.

This is no bad thing.

The whole concept of ‘anchor’ is a complete waste of time and money.

Where did this come from, this notion of the ‘anchor’?

People seem to believe that the ‘anchor’ gives the newscast some kind of credibility.

After all, we call it, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.



We don’t call it, The New York Times with Tom Friedman, but the New York Times still seems to be pretty credible. And we certainly don’t pay Tom Friedman $14 million a year!

That is a nice sum, $14 million (let the number roll around your tongue for a minute), a year, to work 22 minutes a night, reading what someone else has written for you. By the way, in every other journalistic endeavour we would call that plaigerism. Only in television do we deign to call it ‘journalism’. (My friend Jonathan Russo notes that when you read what other people write it is properly called ‘acting’).

There is a rationale that these people somehow earn their pornographic salaries.


What they do instead is strip the true journalistic assets of any newsroom, whether it is local news or network, because that $14 million has to come from somewhere, and it comes from the budget of the news division. How many local news operations work with old equipment, broken vans, ancient editing decks and a skeleton staff so that they can pay the ‘anchors’ their insane salaries?

Where did this notion come from?

When television was first invented in the 1940s, there was no model. No one had ever done it before. So those who were given the task of figuring out how television news was supposed to work went casting about for models they could copy.

They found one in the local movie theater.

There, in the 40’s, Pathe newsreels preceeded the feature film. Newsreels of the Wermacht’s march across Europe, for example. So here it was – news done with visuals and sounds.

So early television began to mimick Hollywood movie making, except the topics were real.

That is why, if you go into any TV newsroom today, all the job titles are Hollywood – Director, producer, associate producer, talent… These are not journalism terms, they are Hollywood terms. And while Hollywood is great at making movies, it is absolute crap at journalism. It was, in fact, a bad model.

And of course, the focal point of any Hollywood film is ….the ‘star’.

The Matrix with Keanu Reeves.

The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

What was the difference?

Of course, there was a far better model for journalism that early TV makers could have followed instead.

It was newspapers.

Newspapers are fairly simple. You get a bunch of reporters. Pay them a decent salary. You give them pads and pencils. You say, ‘here’s your pencil, there’s the door, see you at 6’ and they go off and find stories. Works pretty well. (That is why TV news gets its stories from the newspapers, and not the other way round).

We could build a TV newsroom based on a newspaper. We could, for arguments sake, take 100 great journalists, give them small HD camcorders and laptops and say ‘here’s your camera, there’s the door, see you at 6, and send them all over the world. They could upload their stories and feed them to a web site, 24 hours a day. Refreshing all the time. With text and video and sound… Live and podcast and VOD.

Pretty cool.

Really kind of a digital model for journalism for the future, don’t you think?

And it would not cost all that much.

Let’s say we paid each of our 100 reporters, $140,000 a year. That’s a pretty good salary. You would attract a lot of talent. Real reporting talent.

Where w0uld you get the money from?

Well, let’s take the $14 million you’re paying Katie Couric and guess what… you’re there.

What, really, do you think gives you better journalism?


5 responses to “Anchors Away

  1. We’re gonna have to pay folks some kinda decent wages that’s fer sure. Even something resembling an anchor/moderator, off of Craig’s List maybe, might have helped us work through our partisan bickering here in Georgia today, reddest state in the nation, when I tried committing a little (free) citizen journalism… with very dubious results; proving once again, you get what you pay for:

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