So now we know that anchors often resort to onset rants, when they are super frustrated and feel there is no other outlet. Anchors, we get it. Other journalists understand some of these issues are hard to take, but it’s time for you to see what impact that moment of weakness has on the rest of the team.
First, the producer. Let me clue you in on a little secret, producers tend to be control freaks, who place a lot of their self worth on their work. Their biggest points of pride, the writing and flow of the newscast. The writing is their stamp, on the newscast. So when you the anchor make fun of the writing, right or wrong, for many producers it is a deeply personal insult. In some ways it is the same as viewers sending scathing critiques of your clothes, hair or delivery. It takes awhile for many producers to understand that the writing has to be a team effort. (see “How to get inside your anchors heads”). Anchors can say the critiques are not personal until you are blue in the face, most producers never buy it.
The producer is also the team leader, especially in shops with newscasts that are more content driven rather than personality driven. So when you make fun of the writing or complain about how it made you look, you are essentially calling out the newscast leader as a fool. That is how it feels to the producer, and the production staff. Again, think about this. I personally know of only one anchor, foolish enough to call out an AND or ND in the middle of the newsroom. Producers are a type of manager as well. Show enough respect to talk to the producer one on one.
That said, producers read “I can’t believe that aired again!” and understand, anchors usually do not go off on the set unless they feel they have no voice and that any suggestions in the past were ignored. So, if the anchors are constantly calling you out on the set, it can be a message. You don’t respect us, and therefore we don’t respect you. As the leader of the newscast, you have to try and make amends. It is important that you not only allow critiques to happen, but actually acknowledge them and make changes at times. You are fallible. Everyone is fallible. Recognize it, grow from it, and allow yourself to self reflect. Leaders help those around them rise up. Are you doing that or serving your own self interests? Spell out to the anchors, that you will really listen to what they have to say. If you go against their advice, say why. One more thing, solid leaders also admit when they make mistakes. If you can set that tone, chances are the people around you will too, and all of you will grow together. Set up basic trust, that is crucial especially during breaking news. All of you need each other.
Anchors need to consider another thing before ranting on the set. It undermines your authority with the production staff as well. No one wants to sit and hear someone being criticized openly. If you can say that about the producer, what do you say about the production crew behind their backs? It causes a sense of superiority that is not appropriate. Production crews and producers are fully aware of how much they impact your success. Never, ever, forget that. Every time you sit on the set, you are placing your fate in many hands, no matter how talented you are. Do you really want them collectively saying “Why don’t you show us how it’s done then?” They will monitor how long you take to do your hair and makeup, they will help managers figure out if you take three hour dinner breaks, even on big news days. In other words, if you regularly rant on the set, you better be the hardest working journalist in the newsroom EVERY SINGLE DAY, or you will have a host of enemies waiting to watch you get yours. It is just the truth. A producer I used to work with purposely used words her anchor struggled to pronounce in copy, and especially during breaking news, just to trip the anchor up. She was tired of the on set rants. I watched a production crew, purposely call up a mic line early to catch an anchor in a rant, on live TV, just to make her shut up. I have also seen producers lobby together to request that anchors be fired, because the on set rants became too much to take.
News is stressful. We all have moments of weakness. But when those moments happen on set, they are not easily forgiven. They create the “us vs. them” mentality that damages so many newsrooms and so many newscasts. Anchors, stop those rants. Producers, give anchors a forum to talk with you about concerns, and really listen and learn from the information. Make it your pledge for the new year. You will be shocked how much better all of you perform when you set aside the ego, and focus on team.