So, anchors: What's new?


Scott Libin

By Scott Libin

In just a few months, RTDNA will offer its first post-pandemic RTDNA’s Anchor Leadership Summit, kicking off RTDNA24 on June 12 in Milwaukee. It will have been five years since our last program of this type, and almost two decades since my colleague and “co-anchor” Jill Geisler and I led the first anchor leadership seminar at Poynter. 

It’s worth a look at what’s changed over the years — and what hasn’t. 

Social media was known in its early days as an optional outlet for photos of family and food. It’s now not just an essential element of any anchor’s personal brand, but an avenue for direct viewer feedback of the kind anchors were once insulated from. That can be a good thing. It can also be a source of serious stress and a major time suck. Twenty years ago, few anchors were getting the specific, actionable guidance they needed from their bosses about how to manage social media. How about these days?

Artificial intelligence was largely the stuff of science fiction and satire even as recently as our last Anchor Leadership Summit. Some of us are old enough to remember Max Headroom from the ‘80s. But today, there are serious attempts to replace actual journalists with AI-generated anchors. How entertaining is that? 

Streaming, not so long ago, was mostly about music and movies. If you heard the word in the newsroom, it was probably about how someone spent time decompressing from work. Today, streaming has all but supplanted terrestrial broadcasting and cable as the latest hope for reaching a demographically desirable news audience. Where will that lead?

Those are just a few questions that have gained urgency over recent years, and I’ll bet you can offer others of your own. They are issues that affect everyone in the newsroom these days. Effective leaders, including anchors, may not have easy answers about the future, but they understand how the news environment has changed and how it can influence the work journalists do. 

But for all of the profound change confronting the craft of journalism, it’s also important to recognize what hasn’t changed. 

Often without official authority, anchors still play an essential leadership role in newsrooms – maybe more essential than ever. That role comes with “joys, challenges and choices,” which just happens to be the title of our lead-off session at this year’s Anchor Leadership Summit. 

Effective anchors make tough calls and sometimes have difficult conversations. In Milwaukee this summer, we’ll exercise our ethical decision-making skills and prepare to take on those tricky talks with confidence, empathy and better outcomes. 

All of our work at the Anchor Leadership Summit is based on the premise that leadership isn’t just a top-down process, so we’ll spend time on the skills required to lead in all directions. That means bosses, peers and those at every level without whom no anchor can succeed.  

Because they all count on anchors – not just to deliver the news on air, but to deliver meaning, motivation and more in the newsroom. That’s what this program’s been about from the start, and why we are so eager to engage in Milwaukee with anchors who are not just readers. They are leaders.