Walter Cronkite was often referred to as “the most trusted man in America” during his years anchoring the CBS Evening News. It is probably important to think about where we were as television journalists then —his national newscast had only recently expanded from just 15 minutes. No one imagined 24-hour news, and certainly no one imagined three widely available national cable television networks and hundreds of local news operations. One of Cronkite’s defining moments was November 22, 1963: Telling the nation about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. That report became a defining moment for what we expect of a news anchor.
From Walter Cronkite to today, the role of the news anchor has evolved in ways Walter Cronkite never could imagine.
Today’s news anchor has a much broader role as local television stations produce 8 or 9 or 10 hours of news each day. Audiences are fragmenting and we expect our anchors to do their part to keep the viewers engaged. When news breaks, these same anchors need to quickly evolve into the traditional role of being the gatekeeper for credible, trusted and accurate information. We should all have policies and procedures to help with accuracy, but trust and credibility require anchors who can set the right tone.
In the breaking news segment of the upcoming Anchor Leadership Summit, we’ll talk about how to establish that tone and how to be transparent when uncertainty about breaking news stories may be the only verifiable facts. We will study examples of contemporary anchors navigating the “fog-of-breaking-news” while setting the right tone.